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He hath Jhezued thee, man, what -is good. Micah, 

I i il Ml lilll'itl IIMIMMI 







THOMAS REI D^i). D. F. R. S. Edin, 




y/ 7 

Vol, 1IL 





l8 °3' DISCIPLIA? - . 




Printed by A. Nkilx &c Co. j* 



Of the Rational Principles of Aclicn. 


Chap. I. "there are Rational Principles of Aclion 

in Man, - - 251 

2. Of Regard to our Good on the Whole^ 255 

. 3. "The "Tendency of this Principle^ - 263 

>- 4. DefeEts of this Principle, - 27a 

— .- 5. Of the Notion of Duty, Reclitude, Moral 

Obligation, - - 277 

6. Of the Senfe of Duty, - - 2S9 

— 7. Of Moral Approbation and Difapproba- 

tion, - - 298 

« — 8. Obfervations concerning Confcience, 308 

-<-<>•">■ - 


Chap. i. The Notions of Moral Liberty and Ne- 

cefjity fated, - - 326" 

— 2. Of the Words Catife and Effecl, Action, 

a?id Active Power, - - 336 

3. Ccrufes of the Ambiguity of thofe Words, 343 

4. Of the Influence of Motives, - 356 

5. Liberty confiftent with Government, 370 

— 6. Firfl Argument for Liberty, - 383 




Chap. 7. Second Argument, - - 306 

8. 'Third Argument, - . 403 

9. Of Arguments for Necefjity, - 409 

■ 10. The fame Sub/eel, - * 425 

— — II. Of the PermiJJion of Evil, - - 436 


Chap. I. Of the Firfi Principles of Morals, - 454 

— 2. Of Syfi ems of Morals, - - 468 

— 3* Of Syfiems of Natural furifprudence, 477 

— — — 4. Whether a?i ABion deferring Moral Ap- 
probation, muft he done with the Belief 
of its behig morally good, - 487 

~ — 5. Whether fuflice he a Natural or an Art 7- 

ficial Virtue, - - co6 

— 1 — 6. Of the Nature and Obligation of a Con- 
trail, ■ - - $52 
— — — 7. That Moral Approbation implies a real 

Judgment y - - 58$ 



O F 


INTRODUCTION, - , - - * 


Chap. i. Of the Notion of Aclive Power, 5 

- 2. "the fame SubjeB, - - 1 6 

« 3. Of Mr Locke's Account of our Idea of 

Power , - - 2 ° 

. 4. Of Mr Hume's Opinion of the Idea of 

Power, - - 3 2 

— 5. Whether Beings that have no Will nor Un- 

derjlanding may have aclive Power ? 41 

_ . 6. Of the efficient Caufes of the Phenomena 

of Nature, - 5 1 

= - 7, Of the Extent of Human Power, - 60 




CilAF. I. Obfervations concerning the Will, 73 

— 2. Of the Influence of Incitements and Mo- 
tives upon the Will, - -82 
■ ■■■■ 3. Of Operations of Mind which may be/call- 
ed Voluntary, - -96 
— 4. Corollaries^ - 114 


PART I. Of the Mechanical Principles of Action. 

Chap. i. Of the Principles of Action in general, 119 

2. Of InflinB, - - 126 

- 3- °f Halt*, - 144 


Of Animal Principles of Action. 

Chat. i. Of Appetites, - 14 8 

— 2. Of Bejires, - - 1 61 

3. Of Benevolent Affeclion in general, 173 

4. Of the particular Benevolent Affecliom, 182. 

5. Of Malevolent AJetlicn, - 205 

6. Of Pafion, - S2E 

— 7. Of Difpofitio?i, - - 23 6 

- 1 8. Of Opinio?!, - r 243 






THE divifion of the faculties of the human 
mind into Under/landing and Will is very 
ancient, and has been very generally adopted ; 
the former comprehending all our fpeculative, 
the latter all our active Powers. 

It is evidently the intention of our Maker, 
that man mould be an aclive and not merely a 
fpeculative being. For this purpofe, certain ac- 
tive powers have been given him, limited in- 
deed in many refpecls, but fuited to his rank and 
place in the creation. 

Our bulinefs is to manage thefe powers, by 
propofmg to ourfelves the belt ends, planning 
the raoft proper fyflem of conduct that is in our 
power, and executing it with indullry and zeal. 
This is true wifdom ; this is the very intention 
of our being. 

Vol. III. A Every 


Every thing virtuous and praife-worthy muft 
lie in the right ufe of our power ; every thing 
vicious and blameable in the abufe of it. What 
js not within the fphere of our power cannot be 
imputed to us either for blame or praife. Thefe 
are felf-evident truths, to which every unpre- 
judiced mind yields an immediate and invincible 

Knowledge derives its value from this, that it 
enlarges our power, and directs us in the appli- 
cation of it. For in the right employment of 
our active power confifts all the honour, dignity 
and worth of a man, and, in the abufe and per- 
yerfion of it, all vice, corruption and depravity. 

We are diftinguillied from the brute- animals, 
not lefs by our active than by our fpeculativc 

The brutes are flimulated to various actions 
by their inftincts, by their appetites, by their 
paflions. Eut they feem to be necefiarily deter- 
mined by the ftrongeft impulfe, without any ca- 
pacity of felf-government. Therefore we do not 
blame them for what they do ; nor have we any 
rcafon to think that they blame themfelves. 
They may be trained up by difcipline, but can- 
not be governed by law. There is no evidence 
that they have the conception of a law, or of its 

Man is capable of acting from motives of a 
tiigher nature. He perceives a dignity and worth 
in one courfe of concludl, a demerit and turpi- 


tude ill another, which brutes have not the ca- 
pacity to difcern. 

He perceives it to be his duty to act. the wor- 
thy and the honourable part, whether his appe- 
tites and paffions incite him to it, or to the con- 
trary. When he facrifices the gratification of 
the ftrongeft appetites or pafiions to duty, this 
is fo far from dimini filing the merit of his con- 
duct, that it greatly increafes it, and affords, 
upon reflection, an inward fatisfaction and tri- 
umph, of which brute-animals are not fufceptible. 
When he acts a contrary part, he has a confci- 
oufnefs of demerit, to which they are no lefs 

Since, therefore, the active powers of man 
make fo important a part of his conftitution, and 
diftinguifh him fo eminently from his fellow- 
animals, they deferve no lefs to be the fubject of 
philofophical difquilition than his intellectual 

A juil knowledge of our pow 7 ers, whether in- 
tellectual or active, is fo far of real importance 
to us, as it aids us in the exercife of them. And 
every man muff acknowledge, that to act pro- 
perly is much more valuable than to think jufU 
\y or reafon acutely. 

A z E S S A Y 

Neglected Immortal 

a callow youth he was sent by his 
father to the University of Glasgow 
which was one of the four Scottish 
universities, the others being Aberdeen, 
St. Andrew's and Edinburgh. The 
teacher of philosophy at Glasgow was 
a disciple of Dugald Stewart who suc- 
ceeded Thomas Reid as the head of 
the Scottish commonsense school which 
dominated the intellectual life of the 
country north of the Clyde throughout 
the eighteenth and the earlier part of 
the nineteenth centuries. Mr. Camp- 
bell liked philosophy and took all the 
classes he could arrange for in this 
field. That the point of view of the 
new teaching influenced him tremen- 
dously there can be no question. Any- 
one who will take the trouble to read 
the published works of Reid, Stewart 

and Brown, the three leading repre- 
sentatives of the commonsense school, 
cannot fail to be impressed with the 
manner in which the sage of Bethany 
reincarnated the ideas of his teachers. 
Reid, in particular, was much more 
influential in shaping Campbells 
thought than John Locke who is some- 
times styled his philosophical master 
We have had the pleasure of reading 
the three volumes of Reid's major 
works during the past few months and 
have been impressed again with the 
sSkin? similarity between CampbeU 
and Reid's speculative ideas. Reid ire 
quently disagreed with Locke and re- 
Sed his epistemology almost entirely, 
fs amazing that a thinker _mto as 
much sagacity as this canny Scotsman 
should be so neglected today, v* 
~ especially, should become famil- 
£? with *h£ because he undoubtedly 
umTshed the thought foundations for 
manv of their own interpretations of 
SoTv Writ Reid's practical turn of 
mmd should find admirers in an age 
wSch glorifies such poor substitutes 
7 ,7 iPt us sav as the instrumental- 
sm of J hn Dewey and his associate, 
SSd has a charming style and is qurte 
easy for even a layman tounde»^ 
Perhaps this is why uie d 

philosophers have so ***"*?%* 
him The Germans in particular mre 
Tmake themselves as unintelligible as 

possible in order to V**?™*"^ 
tinction and their scholastic dignity 
Rpid has no such delusions. He is a 
^t linker who deserves more wide- 

spread recognition. 













.,^-m>.i»—»~- BmM|r| | B|| | | | — — — — ^— tmr .r;^» r ^- ■- n 




Of the Notion of Active Power. 

r ~Y^Q confider gravely what is meant by Active 
A Power, may feem. altogether unneceffary, 
and to be mere trifling. It is not a term of art, 
but a common word in our language, ufed every 
day in difcourfe, even by the vulgar. , We find 
words of the fame meaning in all other lan- 
guages ; and there is no reafon to think that it 
is not perfectly underftood by all men who un» 
derftand the Englilh language. 

I believe, all this is true, and that an attempt 
to explain a word fo well underftood, and to 
mow that it has a meaning, requires an apology. 

The apology is, That this term, fo well under- 
ftood by the vulgar, has been darkened by Phi- 
lofophers, who, in this, as in many other in- 
ftances, have found great difficulties about a 
thing which, to the reft of mankind, feems per- 
fectly clear. 

Am Thk 


This has been the more eafily effected, becauie 
Power is a thing fo much of its own kind, and 
fo fimple in its nature, as not to admit of a logi- 
cal definition. 

It is well known, that there are many things 
perfectly understood, and of which we have clear 
and diftinct conceptions, which cannot be logi- 
cally defined. No man ever attempted to de- 
fine magnitude ; yet there is no word whofe 
meaning is more diftinctly or more generally un- 
derflood. We cannot give a logical definition of 
thought, of duration, of number, or of motion. 

When men attempt to define fuch things, they 
give no light. They may give a fynonymous 
word or phrafe, but it w T ill probably be a worfe 
for a better. If they will define, the definition 
will either be grounded upon a hypothefis, or 
it will darken the fubject rather than throw light 
upon it. 

The Ariflotelian definition of motion, that it 
is." Actus entis in potentia, quatenus in potential 
has been juftly cenfured by modern Philofo- 
phers ; yet I think it is matched by what a cele- 
brated modern Philofopher has given us, as the 
moll accurate definition of belief, to wit, " That 
" it is a lively idea related to or afibciated with 
(i a prefent imprefiion." Treatife of Human Na- 
ture, vol.i. p. 172. " Memory," according to 
the fame Philofopher, " is the faculty by which 
" we repeat our impreffions, fo as that they re- 
" tain a considerable degree of their firfl viva- 

ci city, 


" city, and are fomewhat intermediate betwixt 
" an idea and an impreffion." 

Euclid, if his editors have not done him in- 
juftice, has attempted to define a right line, to 
define unity, ratio and number. But thefe de- 
finitions are good for nothing. We may indeed 
fufpecl: them not to be Euclid's •, becaufe they 
are never once quoted in the Elements, and are 
of no ufe. * 

I fhall not therefore attempt to define active 
power, that I may not be liable to the fame cen- 
fure ; but fhall offer fome obfervations that may 
lead us to attend to the conception we have of 
it in our own minds. 

I. Power is not an object of any of our ex- 
ternal fenfes, nor even an object of confcioufnefs. 

That it is not feen, nor heard, nor touched, 
nor tatted, nor fmelt, needs no proof. That we' 
are not confcious of it, in the proper fenie of 
that word, will be no lefs evident, if we reflect, 
that confcioufnefs is that power of the mind by 
which it has an immediate knowledge of its own 
operations. Power is not an operation of the 
mind, and therefore no object of confcioufnefs. 
Indeed every operation of the mind is the exer- 
tion of fome power of the mind ; but we are 
confcious of the operation only, the power lies 
behind the fcene ; and though we may j till ly in- 
fer the power from the operation, it mult be re- 
membered, that inferring is not the province of 
confcioufnefs, but of reafon, 

A a 4 I 

8 E SS AY I. [CHAP. ll 

I acknowledge, therefore, that our having any 
conception or idea of power is repugnant to Mr 
Locke's theory, that all our limple ideas are 
got either by the external fenfes, or by confci- 
oufnefs. Both cannot be true. Mr Hume per- 
ceived this repugnancy, and conliftently main- 
tained, that we have no idea of power. Mr 
Locke did not perceive it. If he had, it might 
have led him to fufpect his theory; for when 
theory is repugnant to fact, it is eafy to fee which 
ought to yield. I am confcious that I have a 
conception or idea of power, but, flriclly fpeak- 
ing, I am nor confcious that I have power. 

I mail have occafion to fhew, that we have 
very early, from our conftitution, a conviction 
or belief of fome degree of active power in our- 
lelves. This belief, however, is not confciouf- 
nefs : For we may be deceived in it ; but the 
tefcimony of confcioufnefc can never deceive. 
Thus, a man who is ftruck with, a palfy in the 
night commonly knows not that he has loll the 
power of fpeech till he attempts to fpeak ; he 
knows not whether he can move his hands and 
arms till he makes the trial ; and if, without 
making trial, he confults his confcioufnefs ever 
fo attentively, it will give him no information 
whether he has loft thefe powers,' or fall retains 

From this we muft conclude, that the power; 
we have are not an object of confcioufnefs, though 
it would be fooliih to cenfurc this way of fpeak- 


ing in popular difcourfe, which requires not ac- 
curate attention to the different provinces of our 
various faculties. The teftimony of confeioufnefs 
is always unerring, nor was it ever called in que- 
fiion by the greatelt fceptics, ancient or modern, 
a. A fecond obfervation is, That as there are 
fome things of which we have a direct, and others 
of which we have only a relative conception, 
power belongs to the latter clafs. 

As this diftinction is overlooked by moil wri- 
ters in logic, I mall beg leave to illuftrate it a 
little, and then mail apply it to the prefent fubject. 
Of fome things we know what they are in 
themfelves ; our conception of fuch things I 
call direct. Of other thing;?, we know not what 
they are in themfelves, but only that they have 
certain properties or attributes, or certain rela- 
tions to other things : of thefe our conception is 
only relative. 

To illuftrate this by fome examples : In the 
univerfity-library, I call for the boo::, prefs L, 
fhelf 10. No. io. ; the library-keeper mull have 
iuch a conception of the book I want, as to be 
able to diitinguifh. it from ten thoufand that are 
under his care. But what conception does he 
form of it from my words ? They inform him 
neither of the author, nor the tub jeer, nor the 
language, nor the fize, nor the binding, but on- 
ly of its mark and place. His conception of it 
is merely relative to thefe eircumlt antes ; yet 


10 E S S AY I. [CHAP. I\ 

this relative notion enables him to diftinguifh it 
from every other book in the library. 

There are other relative notions that are not 
taken from accidental relations, as in the example 
juft now mentioned, but from qualities or attri* 
butes effential to the thing. 

Of this kind are our notions both of body and 
mind. What is body ? It is, fay Philofophers, 
that which is extended, folid and divifible. Says 
the querift, I do not aik what the properties of 
body are, but what is the thing itfelf ; let me 
firft know directly what body is, and then con- 
fider its properties ? To this demand I am afraid 
the querift will meet with no fatisfactory anfwer ; 
becaufe our notion of body is not direct but re- 
lative to its qualities. We know that it is fome- 
thing extended, folid and divifible, and we know 
no more. 

Again, if it mould be afked, What is mind ? 
It is that which thinks. I alk not what is does, 
or what its operations are, but what it is ? To 
this 1 can find no anfwer ; our notion of mind 
being not direct, but relative to its operations, as 
our notion of body is relative to its qualities. 

There are even many of the qualities of body, 
of which we have only a relative conception. 
What is heat in a body ? It is a quality which 
affects the fenfe of touch in a certain way. If 
you want to know, not how it affects the fenfe 
of touch, but what it is in itfelf; this I confefs 
I know not. My conception of it is not direct, 



but relative to the effect it has upon bodies. 
The notions we have of all thofe qualities which 
Mr Locke calls fecondary, and of thofe he calls 
powers of bodies, fuch as the power of the mag- 
net to attract iron, or of fire to burn wood, are 

Having given examples of things of which 
our conception is only relative, it may be proper 
to mention fome of which it is direct. Of this 
kind, are all the primary qualities of body ; fi- 
gure, extenfion, folidity, hardnefs, fluidity, and 
the like. Of thefe we have a direct and imme- 
diate knowledge from our fenfes. To this clafs 
belong alfo all the operations of mind of which 
we are confcious. I know what thought is, what 
memory, what a purpofe, what a promife. 

There are fome things of which we can have 
both a direct and a relative conception. I can 
directly conceive ten thoufand men or ten thou- 
fand pounds, becaufe both are objects of fenfe, 
and may be feen. But whether I fee fuch an 
object, or directly conceive it, my notion of it 
is indiftinct ; it is only that of a great multitude 
of men, or of a great heap of money ; and a fmall 
addition or diminution makes no perceptible 
change in the notion I form in this way. But 
I can form a relative notion of the fame number 
of men or of pounds, by attending to the rela- 
tions which this number has to other numbers, 
greater or lefs. Then I perceive that the rela- 
tive notion is diftinct and fcientific. For the 


12. ESSAY !. [CHAP. 3„ 

addition of a fingle man, or a (ingle pound, or 
even of a penny, is eafily perceived. 

In like manner, I can form a direct notion of 
a polygon of a thoufand equal fides and equal 
angles. This direcl: notion cannot be more di- 
ftinct, when conceived in the mind, than that 
which I get by fight, when the object is before 
me ; and I find it fo indiftinct, that it has the 
fame appearance to my eye, or to my direct con- 
ception, as a polygon of a thoufand and one, or 
of nine hundred and ninety-nine lides. But 
when I form a relative conception of it, by at- 
tending to the relation it bears to polygons of a 
greater or lefs number of fides, my notion of it 
becomes diftinct and fcientific, and I can de- 
monftrate the properties by which it is diftin- 
guifhed from all other polygons. From thefe 
inftances it appears, that our relative conceptions 
of things are not always lefs diftinct, nor lefs fit 
materials for accurate reafoning, than thofe that 
are direct ; and that the contrary may happen in 
a remarkable degree. 

Our conception of power is relative to its exer- 
tions or effects. Power is one thing ; its exer- 
tion is another thing. It is true, there can be 
no exertion without power ; but there may be 
power that is not exerted. Thus a man may 
have power to fpeak when he is filent ; he may 
have power to rife and walk when he fits ft ill. 

But, though it be one thing to fpeak, and ano- 
ther to have the power of fpeaking, I apprehend 



we conceive of the power as fomething which 
has a certain relation to the effect. And of every 
power we form our notion by the effect, which it 
is able to produce. 

3. It is evident that power is a quality, and 
cannot exift without a fubject. to which it be- 

That power may exift without any being or 
fubjecl: to which that power may be attributed, 
is an abfurdity, ihocking to every man of com- 
mon underftanding. 

It is a quality which may be varied, not only 
in degree, but alfo in kind ; and we diftinguifh. 
•both the kinds and degrees by the effects which 
they are able to produce. 

Thus a power to fly, and a power to reafon, 
are different kinds of power, their effects being 
different in kind. But a power to carry one 
hundred weight, and a power to carry two hun- 
dred, are different degrees of the fame kind. 

4. We cannot conclude the want of power from 
its not being exerted ; nor from the exertion of 
a lefs degree of power, can we conclude that 
there is no greater decree in the fubjecl:. Thus, 
chough a man on a particular occafion faid no- 
thing, we cannot conclude from that circura- 
ftance, that he had not the power of fpeech ; nor 
from a man's carrying ten pound weight, can 
we conclude that he had not power to carry 

K. There 

*4 ESSAY I. [CHAP. I. 

5. There are fome qualities that have a con- 
trary, others that have not ; power is a quality 
of the latter kind. 

Vice is contrary to virtue, mifery to happinefs, 
hatred to love, negation to affirmation ; but 
there is no contrary to power. Weaknefs or im- 
potence are defects or privations of power, but . 
not contraries to it. 

If what has been faid of power be eafily un- 
derflood, and readily aflented to, by all who un- 
derfland our language, as I believe it is, we may 
from this juftly conclude, That we have a di- 
flinct. notion of pow r er, and may reafon about it 
with underflanding, though we can give no lo- 
gical definition of it. 

If power were a thing of which we have no 
idea, as fome Philofophers have taken much 
pains to prove, that is, if power were a word 
without any meaning, we could neither affirm 
nor deny any thing concerning it with under- 
flanding. We mould have equal reafon to fay 
that it is a fubilance, as that it is a quality ; that 
it does not admit of degrees, as that it does. If 
the underflanding immediately affents to one of 
thefe aflertions, and revolts from the contrary, 
we may conclude with certainty, that we put 
fome meaning upon the word power, that is, that 
we have fome idea of it. And it is chiefly for 
the fake of this conclufion, that I have enume- 
rated fo many obvious things concerning it. 



The term active power is ufed, I conceive, to 
diftinguifh it from fpeculative powers. As all 
languages diftinguifh action from fpeculation, 
the fame diftinction is applied to the powers by 
which they are produced. The powers of fee- 
ing, hearing, remembering, diftinguifhing, judg- 
ing, reafoning, are fpeculative powers ; the 
power of executing any work of art or labour 
is active power. 

There are many things related to power, in 
fuch a manner, that we can have no notion of 
them if we have none of power. 

The exertion of active power we call aflion ; 
and as every aclion produces fome change, fo 
every change mult be caufed by fome exertion, 
or by the ceffation of fome exertion of power. 
That which produces a change by the exertion 
of its power, we call the caufe of that change ; 
and the change produced, the effect of that 

When one being, by its active power, produ- 
ces any change upon another, the laft is faid to 
be pajjlve, or to be acted upon. Thus we fee, 
that action and paffion, caufe and effect, exer- 
tion and operation, have fuch a relation to active 
power, that if it be underftood, they are under- 
stood of confequence ; but if power be a word 
without any meaning, all thofe words which are 
related to it, muft be words without any mean- 
ipg. They are, however, common words in our 

language * 

it) ESSAY I. {CHAP. I, 

language ; and equivalent words have always 
been common in all languages. 

It would be very ftrange indeed, if mankind 
bad always ufed thefe words fo familiarly, with- 
out perceiving that they had no meaning ; and 
that this difcovery Ihould have been firft made 
by a Philofopher of the prefent age. 

With equal reafon it might be maintained, 
that though there are words in all languages to 
exprefs light, and words to fignify the various 
colours which are objects of fight ; yet that all 
mankind from the beginning of the world had 
been blind, and never had an idea of light or of 
colour. But there are no abfurdities fo grofs as 
thofe which Philofcphers have advanced con* 
cernin-er ideas. 


The fame Subject-. 

! KERE are, I believe, no abttract. notions, 
that are to be found more early, or more 
univerfally, in the minds of men, than thole of 
acting, and being acted upon. Every child that 
imderftands the diftinction between linking and 
being ft ruck, mull have the conception of action 
and p allien. 

"We find accordingly, that there is no language 
fo imperfecl, but that it has active and paffive 



verbs, and participles ; the one fignifying fonie 
kind of action ; the other the being acted upon. 
This di.ftincr.ion enters into the original contex- 
ture of all languages. 

Active verbs have a form and construction 
proper to themfelves ; paffive verbs a different 
form and a different conitruction. In all lan- 
guages, the nominative to an active verb is the 
agent ; the thing acted upon is put in an oblique 
cafe. In paffive verbs, the thing acted upon is 
the nominative, and the agent, if exprefTed, muft 
be in an oblique cafe ; as in this example : Ra- 
phael drew the Cartoons ; the Cartoons were 
drawn by Raphael. 

Every distinction which we find in the ftruc- 
ture of all languages, muft have been familiar to 
thofe who framed the languages at firft, and to 
all who fpeak them with understanding. 

It may be objected to this argument, taken 
from the structure of language, in the ufe of ac- 
tive and paffive verbs, that active verbs are not 
always ufed to denote an action, nor is the no- 
minative before an active verb, conceived in all 
cafes to be an agent, in the strict fenie of that'' 
word ; that there are many paffive verbs which 
have an active signification, and active verbs 
which have a paffive. From thefe facts, it may 
be thought a juft conclusion, that in contriving 
the different forms of active and paffive verbs, 
and their different construction, men have not 
been governed by a regard to any diflinction be- 

Vol. HI. B tween 

1 8 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 2. 

tween aclion and paffion, but by chance, or fome 
accidental caufe. 

In anfwer to this objection, the fact on which 
it is founded, mull be admitted ; but I think 
the conclufion riot juftly drawn from it, for the 
following reafons : 

i. It feems contrary to reafon, to attribute to 
chance or accident, what is fubjecl to rules, even 
though there may be exceptions to the rule. 
The exceptions may, in fuch a cafe, be attri- 
buted to accident, but the rule cannot. There 
is perhaps hardly any thing in language fo gene- 
ral, as not to admit of exceptions. It cannot be 
denied to be a general rule, that verbs and par- 
ticiples have an active and a pa (live voice ; and 
as this is a general rule, not in one language on- 
ly, but in all the languages we are acquainted 
with, it fhews evidently that men, in the earlieft 
flages, and in all periods of fociety, have diftin- 
guilhed aclion from paflion. 

2. It is to be obferved, that the forms of lan- 
guage are often applied to purpofes different 
from thofe for which they were originally in- 
tended. The varieties of a language, even the 
moll perfect:, can never be made equal to all the 
variety of human conceptions. The forms and 
modifications of language mult be confined with- 
in certain limits, that they may not exceed the 
capacity of human memory. Therefore, in all 
languages, there muft be a kind of frugality 
ufed, to make one form of expreffion ferve many 



different purpofes, like Sir Hudibras' dagger, 
which, though made to flab or break a head, 
was put to many other ufes. Many example* 
might be produced of this frugality in language. 
Thus the Latins and Greeks had five or fix cafes 
of nouns, to exprefs all the various relations 
that one thing could bear to another. The ge- 
nitive cafe mult have been at firft intended to 
exprefs fome one capital relation, fuch as that of 
polTeffion or of property ; but it would be very 
difficult to enumerate all the relations which, in 
the progrefs of language, it was ufed to exprefs. 
The fame obfervation may be applied to other 
cafes of nouns. 

The flighteft fimilitude or analogy is thought 
fufficient to juftify the extenlion of a form of 
fpeech beyond its proper meaning, whenever the 
language does not afford a more proper form. 
In the moods of verbs, a few of thofe which oc- 
cur moil frequently are diftinguifhed by dif- 
ferent forms, and thefe are made to fupply all 
the forms that are wanting. The fame obferva- 
tion may be applied to what is called the voices of 
verbs. An active and a paffive are the capital 
ones ; fome languages have more, but no lan- 
guage fo many as to anfwer to all the variations 
of human thought. We cannot always coin new 
ones, and therefore mull ufe fome one or other 
of thofe that are to be found in the language, 
though at firft intended for another purpofc 

B2 3, A 

20 ESSAY I. [CHAP. %* 

3. A third obfervation in anfwer to the ob- 
jection is, That we can point out a caufe of the 
frequent mifapplication of active verbs, to things 
which have no proper activity : A caufe which 
extends to the greater part of fuch mifapplica- 
tions, and which confirms the account I have 
given of the proper intention of active and paf- 
five verbs. 

As there is no principle, that appears to be 
more univerfally acknowledged by mankind, 
from the firft dawn of reafon, than, that every 
change we obferve in nature mult have a caufe ; 
fo this is no fooner perceived, than there arifes in 
the human mind, a ftrong defire to know the 
caufes of thofe changes that fall within our ob- 
fervation. Felix qui potuit rerum cognofcere caufas 9 
is the voice of nature in all men. Nor is there 
any thing that more early the ra- 
tional from the brute creation, than this avidity 
to know the caufes of things, of which I fee n© 
iign in brute animals. 

It muft furely be admitted, that in thofe pe- 
riods wherein languages are formed, men are but 
poorly furnimed for carrying on this inveftiga- 
tion with fuccefs. We fee, that the experience 
of thoufands of years is neceffary to bring men 
into the right track in this inveftigation, if in- 
deed they can yet be faid to be brought into it* 
What innumerable errors rude ages muft fall in- 
to, with regard to caufes, from impatience to 
judge, and inability to judge right, we may con- 


jecture from reafon, and may fee from experi- 
ence ; from which I think, it is evident, that 
fuppofing active verbs to have been originally 
intended to exprefs what is properly called ac r 
tion, and their nominatives to exprefs the agent ; 
yet, in the rude and barbarous ftate wherein lan- 
guages are formed, there muft be innumerable 
mifapplications of fuch verbs and nominatives, 
and many things fpoken of as active, which have 
no real activity. 

To this we may add, that it is a general pre- 
judice of our early years, and of rude nations, 
when we perceive any thing to be changed, and 
do not perceive any other thing which we can 
believe to be the caufe of that change, to im- 
pute it to the thing itfelf, and conceive it to be 
active and animated, fo far as to have the power 
of producing that change in itfelf. Hence, to a 
child, or to a favage, all nature feems to be ani- 
mated ; the fea, the earth, the air, the fun, 
moon, and liars, rivers, fountains and groves, 
are conceived to be active and animated beings. 
As this is a fentiment natural to man in his rude 
ftate, it has, on that account, even in poliihed 
nations, the veriiimilitude that is required in 
poetical fiction and fable, and makes perfonifica- 
tion one of the mofl agreeable figures in poetry 
and eloquence. 

The origin of this prejudice probably is, that 
we judge of other things by ourfelves, and there- 

•B 3 fore 

11 ESSAY i. [CHAP. 2 f 

fore are difpofed to afcribe to them that life and 
activity which we know to be in ourfelves. 

A little girl afcribes to her doll, the paffions 
and fentiments fhe feels in herfelf. Even brutes 
feem to have fomething of this nature. A young 
cat, when fhe lees any brife: motion in a feather 
or a rtraw, is prompted, by natural inftinct, to 
hunt it as fhe would hunt a moufe. 

Whatever be the origin of this prejudice in 
mankind, it has a powerful influence upon lan- 
guage, and leads men, in the frru&ure of lan- 
guage, to afcribe action to many things that are 
merely paflive ; becaufe, when iuch forms of 
fpeech were invented, thole things were really 
believed to be active. Thus we fay, the wind 
blows, the fea rages, the fun rifes and fets, bo- 
dies gravitate and move. 

When experience difcovers that theie things 
are altogether inactive, it is eafy to correct our 
opinion about them ; but it is not lb eafy to al- 
ter the eftablifhed forms of language. The moft 
perfect and the mo ft poliihed languages are like 
old furniture, which is never perfectly fuited to 
the prefent tafte, but retains fomething of the 
fafliion of the times when it was made. 

Thus, though all men of knowledge believe, 
that the fucceffion of day and night is owing to 
the rotation of the earth round its axis, and not 
to any diurnal motion of the heavens ; yet we 
;ind ourfelves under a neceflity of fpeaking in 
the old ityle. of the fun's riling and going down, 



and coming to the meridian. And this flyle is 
ufed, not only in converting with the vulgar, but 
when men of knowledge converfe with one an- 
other. And if we mould fuppofe the vulgar to 
be at lafl fo far enlightened, as to have the fame 
belief with the learned, of the caufe of day and 
night, the fame flyle would Mill be ufed. 

From this inilance we may learn, that the 
language of mankind may fiirnifh good evidence 
of opinions which have been early and univer- 
fally entertained, and that the forms contrived 
for expreffing fuch opinions, may remain in life 
after the opinions which gave rife to them have 
been greatly changed. 

Active verbs appear plainly to have been firft 
contrived to exprefs action. , They are ftill in 
general applied to this purpofe. And though 
we find many inftances of the application of ac- 
tive verbs to things which we now believe not 
to be aclive, this ought to be afcribed to mens 
having once had the belief that thofe things are 
aclive, and perhaps, in fome cafes, to this, that 
forms of expreffion are commonly extended, in 
courfe of time, beyond their original intention, 
either from analogy, or becaufe more proper 
forms for the purpofe are not found in the lan- 

. Even the mifapplication of this notion of ac- 
tion and aclive power mews that there is fuch a 
notion in the human mind, and mews the necef- 
fity there is in philofophy of diftinguifhing the 

B 4 proper 

24 ESSAY If [CHAP. 2, 

proper application of thefe words, from the vague 
and improper application of them, founded on 
common language, or on popular prejudice. 

Another argument to (hew that all men have 
a notion or idea of active power is, that there 
are many operations of mind common to all men 
who have reafon, and neceffary in the ordinary 
conduct of life, which imply a belief of active 
power in ourfelves and in others. 

All our volitions and efforts to act, all our 
deliberations, our purpofes and promifes, imply 
a belief of active power in ourfelves ; our coun- 
fels, exhortations and commands, imply a belief 
of active power in thofe to whom they are ad- 

If a man mould make an effort to fly to the 
moon ; if he mould even deliberate about it, 
or refolve to do it, we fhould conclude him to 
be lunatic ; and even lunacy would not account 
for his conduct, unlefs it made him believe the 
thing to be in his power. 

If a man promifes to pay me a fum of money 
to-morrow, without believing that it will then be 
in his power, he is not an honed man ; and, if I 
did not believe that it will then be in his power, 
I ihould have no dependence on his promife. 

AH our power is, without doubt, derived from 
the Author of our being, and, as he gave it free- 
Jy, he may take it away when he will. No man 
can be certain of the continuance of any of his 
powers of body or mind tor a moment ; and, 



therefore, in every promife, there is a condition 
underftood, to wit, if we live, if we retain that 
health of body and foundnefs of mind which is 
necefTary to the performance, and if nothing 
happen, in the providence of God, which puts 
it out of our power. The rudelt favages are 
taught by nature to admit thefe conditions in all 
promifes, whether they be expreffed or not ; and 
no man is charged with breach of promife, when 
he fails through the failure of thefe conditions. 

It is evident, therefore, that, without the be- 
lief of fome active power, no honefl man would 
make a promife, no wife man would trull to \ 
promife ; and it is no lefs evident, that the be- 
lief of active power, in ourfelves, or in others, 
implies an idea or notion of active power. 

The fame reafoning may be applied to every 
inftance wherein we give counfel to others, where- 
in we perfuade or command. As long, there- 
fore, as mankind are beings who can deliberate, 
and refolve, and will, as long as they can give 
counfel, and exhort, and command, they muft 
believe the exiftence of active power in them- 
felves, and in others, and therefore muft have a 
notion or idea of active power. 

It might further be obferved, that power is 
the proper and immediate object of ambition, 
one of the molt univerfal paffions of the human 
mind, and that which makes the greateft figure 
in the hiltory of all ages. Whether Mr Hume, 
\\\ defence of his fyftem. would maintain that 


26 - ESSAY I. [CHAF. 2. 

there is no fuch paffion in mankind as ambition* 
or that ambition is not a vehement defire of 
power, or that men may have a vehement defire 
of power, without having any idea of power, I 
will not pretend to divine. 

I cannot help repeating my apology for inlift- 
ing fo long in the refutation of fo great an ab- 
furdity. It is a capital doctrine in a late celebra- 
ted fyftem of human nature, that we have no 
idea of power, not even in the Deity ; that we 
are not able to difcover a fingie inftance of it, 
either in body or fpirit, either in fuperior or in- 
ferior natures : and that we deceive ourfelves 
when we imagine that we are pofTeffed of any 
idea of this kind. 

To fupport this important doctrine, and the 
out-works that are railed in its defence, a great 
part of the firft volume of the Treatife of Hu- 
man Nature is employed. That fyftem abounds 
with conclusions the moil abfurd that ever were 
advanced by any Philofopher, deduced with great 
acutenefs and ingenuity from principles common- 
ly received by Philosophers. To reject fuch 
conclusions as unworthy of a hearing, would be 
diSreSpectful to the ingenious author ; and to 
refute them is difficult, and appears ridiculous. 

It is difficult, becaufe we can hardly find prin- 
ciples to reafon from, more evident than thole 
we wiih to prove ; and it appears ridiculous, 
becaufe, as this author juflly obferves, next to 



the ridicule of denying an evident truth, is that 
of taking much pains to prove it. 

Proteftants complain, with juftice, of the hard- 
ship put upon them by Roman Catholics, in re- 
quiring them to prove that bread and wine is 
not flefh and blood. They have, however, fub- 
mitted to this hardfhip for the fake of truth. I 
think it is no lefs hard to be put to prove that 
men have an idea of power. 

What convinces myfelf that I have an idea of 
power is, that I am confcious that I know what 
I mean by that word, and, while I have this 
confcioufnefs, I difdain equally to hear argu- 
ments for or againfi my having fuch an idea. 
But if we would convince thofe, who, being led 
away by prejudice, or by authority, deny that 
they have any fuch idea, we mud condefcend to 
ufe fuch arguments as the fubject will afford, 
and fuch as we mould ufe with a man who 
mould deny that mankind have any idea of mag- 
nitude or of equality. 

The arguments 1 have adduced are taken from 
thefe five topics: 1. That there are many things 
that we can affirm or deny concerning power, 
with underftanding. 2. That there are, in all 
languages, words fignifying, not only power, but 
fignifying many other things that imply power, 
fuch as, action and paffion, caufe and effect, ener- 
gy, operation, and others. 3. That in the ftruc- 
ture of all languages, there is an active and paf- 
ilye form in verbs and participles, and a differ- 

28 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 3. 

ent conftruction adapted to thefe forms, of which 
diversity no account can be given, but that it 
has been intended to diftinguifh action from 
paffion. 4. That there are many operations of 
the human mind familiar to every man come to 
the ufe of reafon, and neceffary in the ordinary 
conduct of life, which imply a conviction of 
fome degree of power in ourfelves and in others. 
5. That the defire of power is one of the ftrong- 
eft paflions of human nature. 


Of Mr Locke's Account of our Idea of Power. 

THIS author, having refuted the Cartefian 
doctrine of innate ideas, took up, perhaps 
too ralhly, an opinion that all our fimple ideas 
are got, either by fenfation or by reflection •, . 
that is, by our external fenfes, or by confciouf- 
nefs of the operations of our own minds. 

Through the whole of his ErTay, he fhews a 
fatherly affection to this opinion, and often 
{trains very hard to reduce our fimple ideas to 
one of thofe fources, or both. Of this, feveral 
inftances might be given, in his account of our 
idea of fubftance, of duration, of perfonal iden- 
tity. Omitting thefe, as foreign to the prefent 
fubjecl:, I in all only take notice of the account 
he gives of our idea of power. 


mr locke's account of power. 29 

The fum of it is, That obferving, by our fen- 
fes, various changes in objects, we collect a pof- 
Ability in one object to be changed, and in an- 
other a poffibility of making that change, and 
fo come by that idea which we call power. 

Thus we fay the fire has a power to melt gold, 
and gold has power to be melted ; the firit he 
calls active, the fecond paffive power. 

He Ithinks, however, that we have the moil 
diftinct notion of active power, by attending to 
the power which we ourfelves exert, in giving 
motion to our bodies when at reft, or in direct- 
ing our thoughts to this or the other object as we 
will. And this way of forming the idea of 
power he attributes to reflection, as he refers the 
former to fenfation. 

On this account of the origin of our idea of 
power, I would beg leave to make two remarks, 
with the refpect that is molt juftly due to fo 
great a Philofopher, and fo good a man. 

1. Whereas he diftinguiihes power into active 
and pajfive, I conceive paffive power is no power 
at all. He means by it, the poffibility of being 
changed. To call this power, feems to be a mif- 
application of the word. I do not remember to 
have met with the phrafe paffive power in any 
other good author. Mr Locke feems to have 
been unlucky in inventing it ; and it deferves 
not to be retained in our language. 

Perhaps he was unwarily led into it, as an 
oppolite to active power. But I conceive we 


3$ ESSAY I. [CHAP. 3. 

call certain powers aftive, to diftinguifh them 
from other powers that are called fpeculative. 
As all mankind diftinguifh action from fpecula- 
tion, it is very proper to diftinguifh the powers 
by which thofe different operations are per- 
formed, into active and fpeculative. Mr Locke 
indeed acknowledges that active power is more 
properly called power ; but I fee no propriety 
at all in paffive power ; it is a powerlefs power, 
and a contradiction in terms. 

1. I would obferve, that Mr Locke feems to 
have impofed upon himfelf, in attempting to re- 
concile this account of the idea of power to his 
favourite doctrine, That all our fimple ideas are 
ideas of fenfation., or of reflection. 

There are two fteps, according to his account, 
which the mind takes, in forming this idea of 
power ; fifji, It obferves changes in things ; and, 
fecondly, From thefe changes, it infers a caufe of 
them, and a power to produce them. 

If both thefe fteps are operations of the exter- 
nal fenfes, or of confcioufnefs, then the idea of 
power may be called an idea of fenfation, or of 
reflection. But, if either of thofe fteps requires 
the co operation of other powers of the mind, it 
will follow, that the idea of power cannot be got 
by fenfation, nor by reflection, nor by both toge- 
ther. Let us, therefore, confider each of thefe 
fteps by itfelf. 

Firjl, We obferve various changes in things. 
And Mr Locke takes it for granted, that changes 


MR locke's account of power, 31 

in external things are obferved by our fenfes, and 
that changes in our thoughts are obferved by 

I grant that it may be faid, that changes in 
things are obferved by our fenfes, when we do 
not mean to exclude every other faculty from a 
fhare in this operation. And it would be ridi- 
culous to cenfure the phrafe, when it is fo ufed 
in popular difcourfe. But it is necefiary to Mr 
Locke's purpofe, that changes in external things 
fhould be obferved by the fenfes alone, excluding 
every other faculty ; becaufe every faculty that 
is necefiary in order to obferve the change, will 
claim a fhare in the origin of the idea of power. 

Now, it is evident, that memory is no lefs ne- 
ceffary than the fenfes, in order to our obferving 
changes in external things, and therefore the idea 
of power, derived from the changes obferved, may 
as juftly be afcribed to memory as to the fenfes. 

Every change fuppofes two ftates of the thing 
changed. Both thefe ftates may be paft ; one 
of them at leaf); muft be paft ; and one only can 
be prefent. By our fenfes we may obferve the 
prefent ftate of the thing ; but memory muft 
fupply us with the paft ; and, unlefs we remem- 
ber the paft ftate, we can perceive no change. 

The fame obfervation may be applied to con- 
fcioufnefs. The truth, therefore, is, that, by the 
fenfes alone, without memory, or by confcioufnefs 
alone, without memory, no change can be ob- 
ferved. Every idea, therefore, that is derived 


32 E S S A Y I. [CHAP. 30 

from obferving changes in things, muil have its 
origin, partly from memory, and not from the 
fenfes alone, nor from confcioufnefs alone, nor 
from both together. 

The fecond Hep made by the mind in forming 
this idea of power is this : From the changes 
obferved we- collect a caufe of thofe changes, and 
a power to produce them. 

Here. -one might afk Mr Locke, whether it is 
by our fenfes that we draw this conclufion, or is 
it by confcioufnefs ? Is reafoning the province 
of the fenfes, or is it the province of confciouf- 
nefs ? If the fenfes can draw one conclufion from 
premifes, they may draw five hundred, and de- 
monftrate the whole elements of Euclid. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that the account 
which Mr Locke himfelf gives of the origin of 
our idea of power, cannot be reconciled to his 
favourite doclrine, That all our fimple ideas have 
their origin from fenfation or reflection \ and 
that, in attempting to derive the idea of power 
from thefe two fources only, he unawares brings 
in our memory, and our reafoning power, for a 
fhare in its origin. 


OfMx Hume's Opinion of the Idea of Power. 

nf^HIS very ingenious author adopts the prin- 
JL ciple of Mr Locke before mentioned, That 
all our fimple ideas are derived either from fen- 


fation or reflection. This he feems to under- 
Hand, even in a finder fenfe than Mr Locke 
did. For he will have all our fimple ideas to be 
copies of preceding impreffions, either of our 
external fenfes or of confcioufnefs. " After 
" the mod accurate examination," fays he " of 
*f which I am capable, I venture to affirm, that 
'* the rule here holds without any exception, and 
" that every fimple idea has a fimple impreffion 
" which refembles it, and every fimple impreffion 
" a correfpondent idea. Every one may fatisfy 
" himfelf in this point, by running over as many 
" as he pleafes." 

I obferve here, by the way, that this conclufion 
is formed by the author rafhly and unphilofophi- 
cally. For it is a conclufion that admits of no 
proof, but by induction ; and it is upon this 
ground that he himfelf founds it. The induc- 
tion cannot be perfect till every fimple idea that 
can enter into the human mind be examined, and 
be ihewn to be copied from a refembling im- 
preffion of fenfe or of confcioufnefs. No man 
can pretend to have made this examination of all 
our fimple ideas without exception ; and, there- 
fore, no man can, confidently with the rules of 
philofophifing, affure us, that this conclufion 
holds without any exception. 

The author profeffes, in his title-page, to in- 
troduce into moral fubje&s the experimental me- 
thod of reafoning. This was a very laudable 
attempt ; but he ought to have known, that it is 

Vol. III. C a 

34 ESSAY i. [chap. 4* 

a rule in the experimental method of reafoning, 
That conclufions, eftablifhed by induction ought 
never to exclude exceptions, if any fuch fhould 
afterwards appear from obfervation or experi- 
ment. Sir Isaac Newton, fpeaking of fuch 
conclufions, fays, " Et fi quando in experiundo 
" poftea reperiatur aliquid, quod a parte con- 
" traria faciat ; turn demum, non line iftis ex- 
" ceptionibus affirmetur conclufio opportebit." 
" But," fays our author, " X will venture to af- 
" firm, that the rule here holds without any ex- 
" ception." 

Accordingly, throughout the whole treatife, 
this general rule is confidered as of fufficient au- 
thority, in itfelf, to exclude, even from a hearing, 
every thing that appears to be an exception to it. 
This is contrary to the fundamental principles 
of the experimental method of reafoning, and 
therefore may be called rafh and unphilofophical. 

Having thus eftablilhed this general principle, 
the author does great execution by it among 
our ideas. He finds, that we have no idea of 
fubftance, material or fpiritual ; that body and 
mind are only certain trains of related impref- 
iions and ideas ; that we have no idea of fpace or 
duration, and no idea of power, active or intel- 

Mr Locke ufed his principle of fenfation and 
reflection with greater moderation and mercy. 
Being unwilling to thruft the ideas we have men- 
tioned into the lirrtftQ of non- exigence, he ilretches 


mr hume's opinion of power, 3$ 

fenfation and reflection to the very utmoft, in or- 
der to receive thefe ideas within the pale ; and 
draws them into it, as it were by violence. 

But this author, inftead of mewing them any 
favour, feems fond to get rid of them. 

Of the ideas mentioned, it is only that of power 
that concerns our prefent fubject. And, with 
regard to this, the author boldly affirms, " That 
" we never have any idea of power ; that we 
" deceive ourfelves when we imagine we are 
" poffciTed of any idea of this kind." 

He begins with obferving, " That the terms effi- 
" cacy, agency, power, force, energy, are all near- 
" ly fynonymous ; and therefore it is an abfurdity 
" to employ any of them in defining the reft. 
" By this obfervation," fays he, " we rejedt at 
" once all the vulgar definitions which Philofo- 
" phers have given of power and efficacy." 

Surely this author was not ignorant, that there 
are many things of which we have a clear and 
diftincT: conception, which are fo fimple in there 
nature, that they cannot be defined any other 
way than by fynonymous words. It is true that 
this is not a logical definition, but that there is, 
as he affirms, an abfurdity in ufing it, wmen no 
better can be had, I cannot perceive. 

He might here have applied to power and effi- 
cacy what he fays, in another place, of pride and 
humility. " The paifions of pride and humility" 
he fays, " being fimple and uniform impref- 
" liens, it is impoffible we can ever give a juit 
C 2 " definition 

36 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 4. 

" definition of them. As the words are of ge- 
" neral ufe, and the things they reprefent the 
" moil common of any, every one, of himfelf ? 
s ' will be able to form a juft notion of them with- 
" out danger of miirake." 

He mentions Mr Locke's account of the idea 
of power, That, obferving various changes in 
things, we conclude,, that there mult be fome- 
where a power capable of producing them, and 
fo arrive at laft, by this reafoning, at the idea of 
power and efficacy. 

" But," fays he, " to be fatisfied that this ex- 
" plication is more popular than philofophical, 
** we need but reflect on two very obvious prin- 
" ciples ; firfl, That reafon alone can never give 
" rife to any original idea ; and, fecondly, That 
i! reafon, as diltinguifried from experience, can 
" never make us conclude, that a caufe, or pro- 
M duclive quality, is abfolutely requiiite to every 
i( beginning of exiftence." 

Before we confider the two principles which 
our author oppofes to the popular opinion of Mr 
Locke, I obferve, 

Firfl, That there are fome popular opinions, 
which, on that very account, deierve more regard 
from Philofophers, than this author is willing to 

That things cannot begin to exift, nor under- 
go any change, without a caule that hath power 
to produce that change, is indeed fo popular an 
-opinion, that, I believe, this author is the firft of 



mankind that ever called it in queftion. It is fo 
popular, that there is not a man of common pru- 
dence who does not acl from this opinion, and 
rely upon it every day of his life. And any man 
who mould conducl himfelf by the contrary opi- 
nion, would foon be confined as infane, and con- 
tinue in that Hate, till a iumcient caufe was 
found for his enlargement. 

Such a popular opinion as this, {rands upon a 
higher authority than that of philofophy, and 
philofophy mull flrike fail to it, if fhe would not 
render herfelf contemptible to every man of com- 
mon underflanding. 

For though, in matters of deep fpeculation, 
the multitude mull be guided by Philofophers, 
yet, in things that are within the reach of every 
man's underflanding, and upon which the whole 
conducl of human life turns, the Philofopher 
mufl follow the multitude, or make himfelf per- 
fectly ridiculous. 

Secondly, I obferve, that whether this popular 
opinion be true or falfe, it follows from mens ha- 
ving this opinion, that they have an idea of 
power. A falfe opinion about power, no lefs 
than a true, implies an idea of power ; for how 
can men have any opinion, true or falfe, about a 
thing of which they have no idea ? 

The jirji of the very obvious principles which 
the author oppofes to Mr Locke's account of the 
idea of power, is, That reafon alone can never 
give rife to any original idea. 

C 3 This 

38 £ 5 S AY I. [CHAP. 4 9 

This appears to me fo far from being a very ob- 
vious principle, that the contrary is very obvious. 

Is it not our reafoning faculty that gives rife 
to the idea of reafoning itfelf ? As our idea of 
light takes its rife from our being endowed with 
that faculty ; fo does our idea of reafoning. Do 
not the ideas of demonftration, of probability, 
our ideas of a fyllogifm, of major, minor and 
conclufion, of an enthymeme, dilemma, forites, 
and all the various modes of reafoning, takes their 
rife from the faculty of reafon? Or is it poffible, 
that a being, not endowed with the faculty of 
reafoning, mould have thefe ideas ? This prin- 
ciple, therefore, , is fo far from being obvioufly 
true, that it appears to be obvioufly falfe. 

The fecond obvious principle is, That reafon, 
as diftinguifhed from experience, can never make 
us conclude, that a caufe, or productive quality, 
is abiblutely requifite to every beginning of exilt- 

In fome Effays on the Intellectual Powers of 
Man, I had occafion to treat of this principle, 
That every change in nature muft have a caufe ; 
and, to prevent repetition, I beg leave to refer the 
reader to what is faid upon this fubject, EJfay 6. 
chap. 6. I endeavoured to fhew that it is a 
firft principle, evident to all men come to years 
of underftanding. Betides its having been uni- 
verfally received, without the leait doubt, from 
the beginning of the world, it has this fure mark 
pf a nrlt principle, that the belief of it is abfo- 


mr hume's opinion of power. 39 

iutely neceffary in the ordinary affairs of life, and, 
without it, no man could adl with common pru- 
dence, or avoid the imputation of infanity. Yet 
a Philofopher, who acted upon the firm belief of 
it every day of his life, thinks fit, in his clofet, 
to call it in queilion. 

He infinuates here, that we may know it from 
experience. I endeavoured to fhew, that we do 
not learn it from experience, for two reafons. 

Firft, Becaufe it is a neceffary truth, and has 
always been received as a neceffary truth. Ex- 
perience gives no information of what is neceffa- 
ry, or of what mull be. 

We may know from experience, what is, or 
what was, and from that may probably conclude 
what fhall be in like circumftances ; but, with 
regard to what muff neceffarily be, experience is 
perfectly filent. 

Thus we know, by unvaried experience, from 
the beginning of the world, that the fun and 
liars rife in the eail and fet in the weft. But no 
man believes, that it could not poffibly have been 
otherwife, or that it did not depend upon the 
will and power of Him who made the world, 
whether the earth mould revolve to the eaft or 
to the weft. 

In like manner, if we had experience, ever fo 
conftant, that every change in Nature we have 
obferved, a&ually had a caufe, this might afford 
ground to believe, that, for the future, it fhall be 

C 4 fc ; 

40 £ S S A Y I. [CHAP. 4. 

fo ; but no ground at all to believe that it mult 
be fo, and cannot be otherwife. 

Another reafon to fhew that this principle is 
not learned from experience is, That experience 
does not fhew us a caufe of one in a hundred of 
thofe changes- which we obferve, and therefore 
can never teach us that there mull be a caufe 
of all. 

Of all the paradoxes this author has advanced, 
there is not one more fhocking to the human un- 
derstanding than this, That things may begin to 
exift without a caufe. This would put an end to 
all fpeculation, as well as to all the bufinefs of 
life. The employment of fpeculative men, fince 
the beginning of the world, has been to invefti- 
gate the caufes of things. What pity is it, they 
never thought of putting the previous queftion, 
Whether things have a caufe or not ? This que- 
ilion has at lail been flarted ; and what is there 
fo ridiculous as not to be maintained by fome 
Philofopher ? 

Enough has been faid upon it, and more, I 
think, than it deferves. But, being about to 
treat of the active powers of the human mind, I 
thought it improper to take no notice of what 
has been faid by fo celebrated a Philofopher, to 
mew, that there is not, in the human mind, anv 
idea of power. 




Whether Beings that have no Will nor Under/land- 
ing may have Active Power f 

THAT active power is an attribute, which 
cannot exift but in fome being poflelTed of 
that power, and the fubject of that attribute, I 
take for granted as a felf-evident truth. Whe- 
ther there can be active power in a fubject which 
has no thought, no underftanding, no will, is not 
fo evident. 

The ambiguity of the words power, caufe, 
agent, and of all the words related to thefe, tends 
to perplex this queftion. The weaknefs of hu- 
man underftanding, which gives us only an indi- 
rect and relative conception of power, contri- 
butes to darken our reafoning, and Ihould make 
us cautious and modeft in our determinations. 

We can derive little light in this matter from 
the events which we obferve in the courfe of 
Nature. We perceive changes innumerable in 
things without us. We know that thofe changes 
muft be produced by the active power of fome 
agent ; but we neither perceive the agent nor 
the power, but the change only. Whether the 
things be active, or merely paffive, is not eafily 
difcovered. And though it may be an object of 
curiolity to the fpeculative few, it does not great- 
ly concern the many. 


4 2 ESSAY i. [CHAP. 5, 

To know the event and the circumftances that 
attended it, and to know in what circumftances 
like events may be expected, may be of confe- 
quence in the conduct of life ; but to know the 
real efficient, whether it be matter or mind, whe- 
ther of a fuperior or inferior order, concerns us 

Thus it is with regard to all the effects we 
afcribe to Nature. 

Nature is the name we give to the efficient 
caufe of innumerable effects which fall daily un- 
der our obfervation. But if it be afked what Na- 
ture is ? Whether the firft univerfal caufe, or a 
fubordinaie one, whether one or many, whether 
intelligent or unintelligent ? Upon thefe points 
we find various conjectures and theories, but no 
folid ground upon which we can reft. And I 
apprehend the wifeft men are they who are fen- 
fible that they know nothing of the matter. 

From the courfe of events in the natural world, 
we have fufficient reafon to conclude the exis- 
tence of an eternal intelligent Firft Caufe. But 
whether he acts immediately in the production of 
thofe events, or by fubordinate intelligent agents, 
or by inftruments that are unintelligent, and 
what the number, the nature, and the different 
offices of thofe agents or inftruments may be ; 
thefe I apprehend to be myfteries placed beyond 
the limits of human knowledge. We fee an efta- 
blifhed order in the fucceflion of natural events, 



but we fee not the bond that connects them to- 

Since we derive 10 little light, with regard to 
efficient caufes and their active power, from at- 
tention to the natural world, let us next attend to 
the moral, I mean, to human actions and conduct, 

Mr Locke obferves very juflly, " That, from 
" the obfervation of the operation of bodies by 
" our fenfes, we have but a very imperfect ob- 
" fcure idea of active power, fince they afford 
" us not any idea in themfelves of the power to 
" begin any action, either of motion or thought." 
He adds, " That we find in ourfelves a power 
" to begin or forbear, continue or end feveral 
" actions of our minds and motions of our bo- 
ft dies, barely by a thought or preference of the 
*' mind, ordering, or, as it were, commanding 
" the doing or not doing fuch a particular ac- 
*' tion. This power which the mind has thus 
" to order the confederation of any idea, or the 
" forbearing to confider it, or to prefer the mo- 
" tion of any part of the body to its reft, and 
" vice verfa, in any particular inltance, is that 
" which we call the will. The actual exercife 
" of that power, by directing any particular 
" action, or its forbearance, is that which we 
" call volition or willing" 

According to Mr Locke, therefore, the only 
clear notion or idea we have of active power, 
is taken from the power which we find in our- 
felves to give certain motions to our bodies, or 


44 . ess ay i. [chap. 5. 

a certain direction to our thoughts ; and this 
power in ourfelves can be brought into action 
only by willing or volition. 

From this, I think, it follows, that, if we had 
not will, and that degree of underftanding which 
will necefiarily implies, we could exert no active 
power, and confequently could have none : For 
power that cannot be exerted is no power. It 
follows alfo, that the aclive power, of which only 
we can have any diftinct conception, can be only 
in beings that have underftanding and will. 

Power to produce any effect implies power not 
to produce it. We can conceive no way in which 
power may be determined to one of thefe rather 
than the other, in a being that has no will. 

Whatever is the effect of active power rauft be 
fornething that is contingent. Contingent exift- 
ence is that which depended upon the power and 
will of its caufe. Oppofed to this, is neceffary 
exiftence, which we afcribe to the Supreme 
Being, becaufe his exiftence is not owing to the 
power of any being. The fame diftinction there 
is between contingent and neceffary truth. 

That the planets of our fyftem go round the 
fun from weft to eaft, is a contingent truth ; be- 
caufe it depended upon the power and will of 
him who made the planetary fyftem, and gave 
motion to it. That a circle and a right line can 
cut one another only in two points, is a truth 
which depends upon no power nor will, and 
therefore is called neceffary and immutable. Con- 
tingency, therefore, has a relation to active 



power, as all active power is exerted in contin- 
gent events ; and as fuch events can have no 
exiftence, but by the exertion of active power. 

When I obferve a plant growing from its feed 
to maturity, I know that there mult be a caufe 
that has power to produce this effect. But I fee 
neither the caufe nor the manner of its operation. 

But in certain motions of my body and di- 
rections of my thought, I know, not only that 
there muft be a caufe that has power to produce 
thefe effects, but that I am that caufe ; and I am 
confcious of what I do in order to the produc- 
tion of them. 

From the confcioufnefs of our own activity,, 
feems to be derived, not only the clearer!, but 
the only conception we can form of activity, or 
the exertion of active power. 

As I am unable to form a notion of any in- 
tellectual power different in kind from thofe I 
poffefs, the fame holds with refpect to active 
power. If all men had been blind, we mould 
have had no conception of the power of feeing, 
nor any name for it in language. If man had 
not the powers of abftraction and reafoning, we 
could not have had any conception of thefe ope- 
rations. In like manner, if he had not fome 
degree of active power, and if he were not con- 
fcious of the exertion of it in his voluntary ac- 
tions, it. is probable he could have no conception 
of activity, or of active power, 


46 £ s s a y f . [chap. 5, 

A train of events following one another ever 
fo regularly, could never lead us to the notion of 
a caufe, if we had not, from our conftitution, a 
conviction of the neceffity of a caufe to every 

And of the manner in which a caufe may 
exert its active power, we can have no concep- 
tion but from confcioufnefs of the manner in 
which our own active power is exerted. 

With regard to the operations of Nature, it is 
fufficient for us to know, that, whatever the 
agents may be, whatever the manner of their 
operation, or the extent of their power, they de- 
pend upon the Firft Caufe, and are under his con- 
trol ; and this indeed is all that we know ; be- 
yond this we are left in darknefs. But, in what 
regards human actions, we have a more imme- 
diate concern. 

It is of the higher! importance to us, as moral 
and accountable creatures, to know what actions 
are in our own power, becaufe it is for thefe 
only that we can be accountable to our Maker, 
or to our fellow-men in fociety ; by thefe only 
we can merit praife or blame ; in thefe only all 
our prudence, wifdom and virtue mult be em- 
ployed ; and, therefore, with regard to them, the 
wife Author of Nature has not left us in the dark. 

Every man is led by Nature to attribute to 
himfelf the free determinations of his own will, 
and to believe thofe events to be in his power 
which depend upon his will. On the other 



hand, it is felf-evident, that nothing is in out 
power that is not fubject. to our will. 

We grow from childhood to manhood, we 
digeft our food, our blood circulates, our heart 
and arteries beat, we are fometimes lick and 
fometimes in health ; all thefe things muft be 
done by the power of fome agent ; but they are 
not done by our power. How do we know this ? 
Becaufe they are not fubject to our will. This 
is the infallible criterion by which we diflinguifh 
what is our doing from what is not ; what is 
in our power from what is not. 

Human power, therefore, can only be exerted 
by will, and we are unable to conceive any active 
power to be exerted without will. Every man 
knows infallibly that what is done by his con- 
fcious will and intention, is to be imputed to 
him as the agent or caufe ; and that whatever 
is done without his will and intention, cannot 
be imputed to him with truth. 

We judge of the actions and conduct of other 
men by the fame rule as we judge of our own. 
In morals, it is felf-evident that no man can be 
the object either of approbation or of blame for 
what he did not. But how fhall we know whe- 
ther it is his doing or not ? If the action depend- 
ed upon his will, and if he intended and willed 
it, it is his action in the judgment of all man- 
kind. But if it was done without his knowledge, 
or without his will and intention, it is as certain 


48 essay i. [chap. 5. 

that he did it not, and that it ought not to be 
imputed to him as the agent. 

When there is any doubt to whom a particu- 
lar action ought to be imputed, the doubt arifes 
only from our ignorance of facts j when the 
fads relating to it are known, no man of under- 
Handing has any doubt to whom the action 
ought to be imputed. 

The general rules of imputation are felf-evi- 
dent. They have been the fame in all ages, 
and among all civilized nations. No man blames 
another for being black or 'fair, for having a fe- 
ver or the falling ficknefs ; becaufe thefe things 
are believed not to be in his power ; and they are 
believed not to be in his power, becaufe they de- 
pend not upon his will. We can never conceive 
that a man's duty goes beyond his power, or that 
his power goes beyond what depends upon his will. 

Reafon leads us to afcribe unlimited power to 
the Supreme Being. But what do we mean by 
unlimited power ? It is power to do whatfoever 
he wills. To fuppofe him to do what he does 
not will to do, is abfurd. 

The only diftincl conception I can form of 
active power is, that it is an attribute in a being 
by which he can do certain things if he wills. 
This, after all, is only a relative conception. It 
is relative to the effect, and to the will of pro- 
ducing it. Take away thefe, and the conception 
vanimes. They are the handles by which the 
mind takes hold of it. When they are taken 



away, our hold is gone. The fame is the cafe 
with regard to other relative conceptions. Thus 
velocity is a real ftate of a body, about which 
Philofophers reafon with the force of demonftra- 
tion ; but our conception of it is relative to fpace 
and time. What is velocity in a body ? It is a 
ftate in which it pafles through a certain fpace 
in a certain time. Space and time are very dif- 
ferent from velocity ; but we cannot conceive it 
but by its relation to them. The effect pro- 
duced, and the will to produce it, are things dif- 
ferent from active power, but we can have no 
conception of it, but by its relation to them. 

Whether the conception of an efficient caufe, 
and of real activity, could ever have entered in- 
to the mind of man, if we had not had the ex- 
perience of activity in ourfelves, I am not able 
to determine with certainty. The origin of ma- 
ny of our conceptions, and even of many of our 
judgments, is not fo eafily traced as Philofophers 
have generally conceived. No man can recol- 
lect the time when he firft got the conception of 
an efficient caufe, or the time when he firft got 
the belief that an efficient caufe is neceflary to 
every change in Nature. The conception of an 
efficient caufe may very probably be derived 
from the experience we have had in very early 
life of our own power to produce certain effects. 
But the belief, that no event can happen with- 
out an efficient caufe, cannot be derived from 
experience. We may learn from experience 

Vo*. III. D what 

5« essay i. [chap.- 5^ 

what is, or what was, but no experience can 
teach us what neceffarily mull be. 

In like manner, we probably derive the con- 
ception of pain from the experience we have had 
of it in ourfelves ; but our belief that pain can 
only exift in a being that hath life, cannot be 
got by experience, becaufe it is a neceffary truth ; 
and no neceffary truth can have its atteftation 
from experience. 

If it be fo that the conception of an efficient 
caufe enters into the mind, only from the early 
conviction we have that we are the efficients of 
our own voluntary actions, (which I think is 
raoft probable) the notion of efficiency will be 
reduced to this, That it is a relation between the 
caufe and the effect, iimilar to that which is be- 
tween us and our voluntary actions. This is 
furely the moil diftinct notion, and, I think, the 
only notion we can form of real efficiency. 

Now it is evident, that, to conftitute the rela- 
tion between me and my action, my conception 
of the action, and will to do it, are effential. For 
what 1 never conceived, nor willed, I never did. 

If any man, therefore, affirms, that a being may 
be the efficient caufe of an action, and have 
power to produce it, which that being can nei- 
ther conceive nor will, he fpeaks a language 
which I do not underftand. If he has a mean- 
ing, his notion of power and efficiency muff be 
elTentially different from mine ; and, until he con- 
veys his notion of efficiency to my underftand- 

. ing< 


ing, I can no more afTent to his opinion, than if 
he mould affim, that a being without life may- 
feel pain. 

It feems, therefore, to me mofl probable, that 
fuch beings only as have fome degree of under- 
ftanding and will, can poffefs active power ; and 
that inanimate beings muil be merely pafiive, 
and have no real activity. Nothing we perceive 
without us affords any good ground for aicrib- 
ing active power to any inanimate being ; and 
every thing we can difcover in our own confti- 
tution, leads us to think, that active power can- 
not be exerted without will and intelligence. 


Of the efficient Caufes of the Phenomena of Nature, 

F active power, in its proper meaning, re- 
quires a fubjecf endowed with will and in- 
telligence, what mall we fay of thofe active 
pow T ers which Philofophers teach us to afcribe to 
matter; the powers of corpufcular attraction, 
magnetifm, electricity, gravitation, and others ? 
Is it not univerfally allowed, that heavy bodies 
defcend to the earth by the power of gravity ; 
that, by the fame power, the moon, and all the 
planets and comets, are -retained in their orbits? 
Have the mod eminent natural Philofophers been 
D 2 imp oil ng 

52 ESSAY I. [CHAF. 6* 

impoiing upon us, and giving us words inftead 
of real caufes? 

In anfwer to this, I apprehend, that the prin- 
ciples of natural philofophy have, in modern 
times, been built upon a foundation that cannot 
be fhaken, and that they can be called in que- 
fiion only by thofe who do not underftand the 
evidence on which they Hand. But the ambi- 
guity of the words caufe y agency \ active power, 
and the other words related to thefe, has led 
many to underftand them, when ufed in natural 
philofophy, in a wrong fenfe, and in a fenfe 
which is neither neceffary for eftablifhing the 
true principles of natural philofophy, nor was ever 
meant by the moll enlightened in that fcience. 

To be convinced of this, we may obferve, that 
thofe very Philofophers who attribute to matter 
the power of gravitation, and other active powers, 
teach us, at the fame time, that matter is a fub- 
ilance altogether inert, and merely paffive ; that 
gravitation, and the other attractive or repulfive 
powers which they afcribe to it, are not inherent 
in its nature, but imprefled upon it by fome ex- 
ternal caufe, which they do not pretend to know, 
or to explain. Now, when we find wife men 
afcribing action and active power to a fubftance 
which they exprefsly teach us to conlider as 
merely paffive and acted upon by fome unknown 
caufe, we muft conclude, that the action and ac- 
tive power afcribed to it are not to be under- 
itood ftrictly, but in fome popular fenfe. 



It ought like wife to be obferved, that although 
Philofophers, for the fake of being underftood, 
muft fpeak the language of the vulgar, as when 
they fay, the fun rifes and fets, and goes through 
all the figns of the zodiac, yet they often think 
differently from the vulgar. Let us hear what 
the greateft of natural Philofophers fays, in the 
8th definition prefixed to his principia, " Voces 
" autem attraclionis, impulfus, vel propenfionis 
" cujufcunque in centrum, indifferenter et pro 
" fe mutuo promifcue ufurpo ; has voces non 
" phyfice fed mathematice confiderando. Un- 
" de caveat lector, ne per hujus modi voces co- 
*' gitet me fpeciem vel modum actionis, caufamve 
" aut rationem phyficam, alicubi definire ; vel 
" centris (quae funt puncta mathematica) vires 
*' vere et phyfice tribuere, fi forte centra trahere, 
" aut vires centrorum effe, dixero." 

In all languages, action is attributed to many 
things which all men of common underftanding 
believe to be merely paffive ; thus we fay, the 
wind blows, the rivers flow, the fea rages, the 
fire burns, bodies move, and impel other bodies. 

Every object which undergoes any change, 
muft be either a&ive or paffive in that change. 
This is felf-evident to all men from the firft dawn 
of reafon ; and therefore the change is always 
expreffed in language, either by an aclive or a 
paffive verb. Nor do I know any verb, expref- 
five of a change, which does not imply either ac- 
tion or pafiion. The thing either changes, or it 
»3 h 

54 ES.SAY I, [chap. 6, 

is changed. But it is remarkable in language, 
that when an external caufe of the change is not 
obvious, the change is always imputed to tke 
thing changed, as if it w T ere animated, and had 
active power to produce the change in itfelf. So 
we fay, the moon changes, the fun rifes and goes 

Thus active verbs are very often applied, and 
active power imputed to things, which a little 
advance in knowledge and experience teaches us 
to be merely paffive. This property, -common 
to all languages, I endeavoured to account for in 
the fecond chapter of this EfTay, to which the 
reader is referred. 

A like irregularity may be cbferved in the ufe 
of the word figni lying caufe, in all languages, 
and of the words related to it. 

Our knowledge of caufes is. very fcant'y in the 
moft -advanced (late of fociety, much more is it 
fo in that early period in which language is 
formed. A ftrong defire to know the caufes of 
things, is common to all men in every ftate ; but 
the experience of all ages- ihews, that this keen 
appetite, rather than go empty, will feed upon 
the hulks of real knowledge where the fruit can- 
not be found. 

While we are very much in the dark with re- 
gard to the real agents or caufes which produce 
the phaenqmena of Nature, and have, at the fame 
time, an avidity to know them, ingenious men 
frame conjectures, which thofe of weaker under- 



•{landing take for truth. The fare is coarfe, but 
appetite makes it go do>vn. 

Thus, in a very ancient fyflem, love and ft rife 
were made the caufes of things. Plato made 
the caufes of things to be matter, ideas, and an 
efficient architect Aristotle, matter, forni, 
and privation. Des Cartes thought matter, and 
a certain quantity of motion givenjt by the Al- 
mighty at fir ft, to be all that is neceftary to rnake 
the material world. Leibnitz conceived the 
whole univerfe, even the material part of jit, to 
be made, up of monades, each of which is active 
and intelligent, and produces in itfelf, by its own 
active power, all the changes it undergoes from 
the beginning of its exittence to eternity. 

In common language, we give the name of a 
caufe to a reafon, a motive, an end, to any cir- 
cumftance which is connected with the effect., 
and goes before it. 

Arjstotle, and the fchoolmen after him, di- 
fiinguiilied four kinds of caufes, the efficient, 
the material, the formal, and the final. This, 
like many of Aristotle's diiiinctions, is only a 
diflinclion of the various meanings of an ambi- 
guous word ; for the efficient, the matter, the 
form and the end, have nothing common in their 
nature, by which they may be accounted fpecies 
of the fame genus ; but ,the Greek word which 
we translate caujt, had thefc fourdifferent mean- 
ings in Aristotle's days, and we have added 
other meanings. We do not indeed call the 

D 4 matter 

5^ £ S S A Y is [chap. 6. 

matter or the form of a thing its caufe ; but wc 
have final caufes, inflrumental caufes, occafional 
caufes, and I know not how many others. 

Thus the word caufe has been fo hackneyed, 
and made to have fo many different meanings in 
the writings of Philofophers, and in the difcourfe 
of the vulgar, that its original and proper mean- 
ing is loft in the crowd. 

With regard to the phenomena of Nature, the 
important end of knowing their caufes, befides 
gratifying our curiofity, is, that we may know 
■when to expect them, or how to bring them 
about. This is very often of real importance in 
life ; and this purpofe is ferved, by knowing 
■what, by the courfe of Nature, goes before them 
and is connected with them ; and this, therefore, 
we call the caufe of fuch a phenomenon. 

If a magnet be brought near to a mariner's 
compafs, the needle, which was before at reft, 
immediately begins to move, and bends its courfe 
towards the magnet, or perhaps the contrary way. 
If an unlearned failor is afked the caufe of this 
motion of the needle, he is at no lofs for an an- 
fwer. He tells you it is the magnet ; and the 
proof is clear ; for, remove the magnet, and the 
effect ceafes ; bring it near, and the effect is 
again produced. It is, therefore, evident to fenfe, 
that the magnet is the caufe of this effect. 

A Cartefian Philofopher enters deeper into the 
caufe of this phenomenon. He obferves, that 
the magnet does not touch the needle, and there- 


fore can give it no impulfe. He pities the igno- 
rance of the failor. The effect is produced, fays 
he, by magnetic effluvia, or fubtile matter, which 
paffes from the magnet to the needle, and forces 
it from its place. He can even fhew you, in a 
figure, where thefe magnetic effluvia iffue from 
the magnet, what round they take, and what way 
they return home again. And thus he thinks he 
comprehends perfectly how, and by what caufe, 
the motion of the needle is produced. 

A Newtonian Philofopher inquires what proof 
can be offered for the exiftence of magnetic ef- 
fluvia, and can find none. He therefore holds 
it as a fiction, a hypothelis ; and he has learned 
that hypotheles ought to have no place in the 
philofophy of Nature. He confeffes his igno- 
rance of the real caufe of this motion, and thinks, 
that his bufinefs, as a Philofopher, is only to find 
from experiment the laws by which it is regu- 
lated in all cafes. 

Thefe three perfons differ much in their fen- 
timents with regard to the real caufe of this phe- 
nomenon ; and the man who knows molt is he 
who is fenfible that he knows nothing of the 
matter. Yet all the three fpeak the fame lan- 
guage, and acknowledge, that the caufe of this 
motion is the attractive or repullive power of 
the magnet. 

What has been faid of this, may be applied to 
every phaenomenon that falls within the compafs 
of natural philofophy. We deceive ourfelves, if 


5 8 »ssAtf i, [chap. 6. 

we conceive, that we can point out the real ef- 
ficient caufe of any one of them. 

The grandeft difcovery ever made in natural 
philofophy, was that of the law of gravitation, 
which opens fuch a view of our planetary fyftem, 
that it looks like fomething divine. But the 
author of this difcovery was perfectly aware, that 
he difcovered no real caufe, but only the law or 
rule, according to which the unknown caufe 

Natural Philofophers, who think accurately, 
have a precife meaning to the terms they ufe in 
the fcience ; and when they pretend to fhew the 
caufe of any phenomenon of Nature, they mean 
by the caufe, a law of Nature of which that phe- 
nomenon is a necefTary confequence. 

The whole object of natural philofophy, as 
Newton exprefsly teaches, is reducible to thefe 
two heads ; firft, by juil induction from experi- 
ment and obfervation, to diicover the laws of 
Nature, and then to apply tboie laws to the folu- 
tion.of the phenomena of Nature. This was all 
that this great T.b.ilofopher attempted, and all 
that he thought attainable. And .this indeed he 
attained in a great, meafure, with regard to the 
motions of our planetary fy item, and with regard 
to the rays of light. . 

But fuppofing that all the phenomena ; that 
fall within the reach of our fenies, were account- 
ed for from general laws of Nature, juitly de- 
duced from experience ; that is, . fuppofing na- 


tural philofophy brought to its utmoft perfection^, 

it does not difcover the efficient caufe of any 

one phenomenon in Nature. 

The laws of Nature are the rules according to 

which the effects are produced ; but there mud 

be a caufe which operates according to thefe 

rules. The rules of navigation. never navigated 

a ihip. The rules of architecture never built a 

i Natural Philofophers, by great attention to the 

courfe of Nature, have difcovered many of her 
laws, and have very happily applied them to ac- 
count for many phenomena ; but they have ne- 
ver difcovered the efficient caufe of any one 
phenomenon ; nor do thofe who have difiinct. 
notions of the principles of the fcienee, make 
any fuCh 'pretence. 

Upon the theatre of Nature we fee innume- 
rable efFe&s, which require an agent endowed 
with active power ; but the agent is behind the 
fcene. Whether it be the Supreme Caufe alone,, 
or a fubordinate caufe or cauies ; and if fubor- 
dinate caufes be employed by the Almighty, 
what their nature, their number, and their diffe- 
rent offices may be, are things hid, for wife rea- 
fons without doubt, from the human eye. 

It is only in human actions, that may be 
imputed fot praife or blame, that it is nece'ffary 
for us to know who is the acent ; and in this. 
Nature has given us all the light that is neceffary 
for our conduct. 

C H A T, 

60 z s s a y i. [chap. 7, 


Of the Extent of Human Power. 

EVERT thing laudable and praife-worthy in 
man, mull confift in the proper exercife of 
that power which is given him by his Maker. 
This is the talent which he is required to occupy, 
and of which he muft give an account to him 
who committed it to his trull. 

To fome perfons more power is given than to 
others • and to the fame perfon more at one time 
and lefs at another. Its exiftence, its extent, and 
its continuance, depend folely upon the pleafure 
of the Almighty ; but every man that is account- 
able muft have more or lefs of it. For, to call a 
perfon to account, to approve or difapprove of 
his conduct, who had no power to do good or ill, 
is abfurd. No axiom of Euclid appears more 
evident than this. 

As power is a valuable gift, to under-rate it is 
ingratitude to the giver ; to over-rate it, begets 
pride and prefumption, and leads to unfuccefsful 
attempts. It is therefore, in every man, a point 
of wifdom to make a juft eftimate of his own 
power. £>uidferre recufent, quid valeant humeri. 

We can only fpeak of the power of man in 
general ; and as our notion of power is relative 
to its effects, we can eftimate its extent only by 
the effects which it is able to produce. 



It would be wrong to . eftimate the extent of 
human power by the effects which it has actually 
produced. For every man had power to do many 
things which he did not, and not to do many 
things which he did; otherwife he could not be 
an object either of approbation or of difapproba- 
tion, to any rational being. 

The effects of human power are either imme- 
diate, or they are more remote. 

The immediate effects, I think, are reducible 
to two heads. We can give certain motions to 
our own bodies ; and we can give a certain di- 
rection to our own thoughts. 

Whatever we can do beyond this,muft be done 
by one of thefe means, or both. 

We can produce no motion in any body in the 
univerfe, but by moving firft our own body as 
an inftrument. Nor can we produce thought in 
any other perfon, but by thought and motion in 

Our power to move our own body, is not only 
limited in its extent, but in its nature is fubject 
to mechanical laws. It may be compared to a 
fpring endowed with the power of contracting 
or expanding itfelf, but which cannot contract 
without drawing equally at both ends, nor ex- 
pand without pufhing equally at both ends ; fo 
that every action of the fpring is always accom- 
panied with an equal reaction in a contrary di- 


fra £ s s a y i. [chap. 7, 

We can conceive a man to have power to move 
his whole body in any direction, without the aid 
of any other body, or a power to move one part 
of his body without the aid of any other part. 
But philofophy teaches us that man has no fuch 

If Jie carries his whole body in any direction 
with a certain quantity of motion, this he can do 
only by pufhing the earth, or fome other body, 
with an equal quantity of motion in the contrary 
direction. If he but flretch out his arm in one 
direction, the reft of his body is pufhed with an 
equal quantity of motion in the contrary direc- 

This is the cafe with regard to all animal and 
voluntary motions, which come within the reach 
of our fenfes. They are performed by the con- 
traction of certain mufcles ; and a mufcle, when 
it is contracted, draws equally at both ends. As 
to the motions antecedent to the contraction of 
the mufcle, and confequently upon the volition 
of the animal, we know nothing, and can fay 
nothin? about them. 


We know not even how thofe immediate ef- 
fects of our power are produced by our willing 
them. We perceive not any neceflary connec- 
tion between the volition and exertion on our 
part, and the motion of our body that follows 
them. . 

Anatomifts inform us, that every voluntary 
motion of the body is performed by the contrac- 



tion of certain mufcles, and that the mufcles are 
contracted by feme influence derived from the 
nerves. But, without thinking in the leaft, ei- 
ther of mufcles or nerves, we will only the ex- 
ternal effect, and the internal machinery, with- 
out our call, immediately produces that effect. 

This is one of the wonders of our frame, 
which we have reafon to admire ; but to ac- 
count for it, is beyond the reach of our under- 

That there is an eftablimed harmony between 
our willing certain motions of our bodies, and 
the operation of the nerves and mufcles which 
produces thofe motions, is a fact known by ex- 
perience. This volition is an act of the mind. 
But whether this act of the mind have any phy- 
ileal effect upon the nerves and mufcles ; or whe- 
ther it be only an occafion of their being acted 
upon by fome other efficient, according to the 
eiiablimed laws of Nature., is hid from us. So 
dark is our conception of our own power when 
we trace it to its origin. 

We have good reafon to believe, that matter 
had its origin from mind, as well as all its mo- 
tions ; but how, or in what manner, it is moved 
bv mind, we know as little as how it was cre«t- 

It is poffible therefore, for any thing we know, 
that what We call the immediate effects of our 
power, may not be fo in the flrieteit feriie. Be- 
tween the will to produce the effect, and the 


64 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7. 

production of it, there may be agents or inftru- 
ments of which we are ignorant. 

This may leave feme doubt, whether we be, 
in the ftricteft fenfe, the efficient caufe of the 
voluntary motions of our own body. But it can 
produce no doubt with regard to the moral efti- 
mation of our actions. 

The man who knows that fuch an event de- 
pends upon his will, and who deliberately wills 
to produce it, is, in the ftricteft moral fenfe, the 
caufe of the event ; and it is juftly imputed to 
him, whatever phyfical caufes may have con- 
curred in its production. 

Thus, he who malicioufly intends to moot his 
neighbour dead, and voluntarily does it, is un- 
doubtedly the caufe of his death, though he did 
no more to occasion it than draw the trigger of 
the gun. He neither gave to the ball its velo- 
city, nor to the powder its expanfive force, nor 
to the flint and fteel the power to ftrike fire ; 
but he knew that what he did rauft be followed 
by the man's death, and did it with that inten- 
tion -, and therefore he is juftly chargeable with 
the murder. 

Philofophers may therefore difpute innocent- 
ly, whether we be the proper efficient caufes of 
the voluntary motions of our own body \ or whe- 
ther we be only, as Malebranche thinks, the 
occafional caufes. The determination of this 
queftion, if it can be determined, can have no 
effect on human conduct. 



The other branch of what is immediately in 
our power, is to give a certain direction to our 
own thoughts. This, as well as the firft branch, 
is limited in various ways. It is greater in fome 
perfons than in others, and in the fame perfon is 
very different, according to the health of his 
body, and the ftate of his mind. But that men, 
when free from difeafe of body and of mind, 
have a conliderable degree of power of this kind, 
and that it may be greatly increaied by practice 
and habit, is fufficiently evident from experi- 
ence, and from the natural conviction of all man- 

Were we to examine minutely into the con- 
nection between our volitions, and the direction 
of our thoughts which obeys thefe volitions ; 
were we to confider how we are able to give at- 
tention to an object for a certain time, and turn 
our attention to another when we choofe, we 
might perhaps find it difficult to determine, 
whether the mind itfelf be the fole efficient caufe 
of the voluntary changes in the direction of our 
thoughts, or whether it requires the aid of other 
efficient caufes. 

I fee no good reafon why the difpute about 
efficient and occafional caufes, may not be ap- 
plied to the power of directing our thoughts, as 
well as to the power of moving ourl>odies. In 
both cafes, I apprehend the difpute is endlefs, 
and, if it could be brought to an iffue, would be 

Vol. III. E Nothing 

$£ E S S A Y I. [CHAP, f' 

Nothing appears more evident to our reafon, 
than that there mud be an efficient caufe of 
every change that happens in Nature. But when 
I attempt to comprehend the manner in which 
an efficient caufe operates, either upon body or 
upon mind, there is a darknefs which my facul- 
ties are not able to penetrate. 

However finall the immediate efFects of hu- 
man power feem to be, its more remote effects 
are very confiderable. 

In this refpect, the power of man may be com- 
pared to the Nile, the Ganges, and other great 
rivers, which make a figure upon the globe of the 
earth, and, traverfing vafl regions,, bring fome- 
times great benefit, at other times great mifchief, 
to many nations y yet, when we trace thofe ri- 
vers to their fource, we find them to rife from, 
inconfiderable fountains and rills. 

The command of a mighty prince, what is it, 
but the found of his breathy modified by his or- 
gans of fpeech ? But it may have great confe- 
quences ; it may raife armies, equip fleets, and 
fpread war and defolation over a great part of 
the earth. 

The meanefl of mankind has confiderable 
power to do good, and more to hurt himfelf and 

From this I think we may conclude,, that al- 
though the degeneracy of mankind be great, and 
juftly to be lamented, yet men, in general, are 
more difpofed to employ their power in doing 



good, than in doing hurt to their fellow- men. 
The laft is much more in their power than the 
firft ; and, if they were as much difpofed to it, 
human fociety could not fubfift, and the fpecies 
muft foon perilh from the earth. 

We may firft confider the effects which may 
be produced by human power upon the mate- 
rial fyftem. 

It is confined indeed to the planet which we 
inhabit ; we cannot remove to another ; nor can 
we produce any change in the annual or diurnal 
motions of our own. 

But, by human power, great changes may be 
made upon the face of the earth ; and thofe 
treafures of metals and minerals that are ftored 
up in its bowels, may be difcovered and brought 

The Supreme Being could, no doubt, have 
made the earth to fupply the wants of man, 
without any cultivation by human labour. Ma- 
ny inferior animals, who neither plant, nor fow, 
nor fpin, are provided for by the bounty of Hea- 
ven. But this is not the cafe with man. 

He has active powers and ingenuity given him, 
by which he can do much for fupplying his 
wants ; and his labour is made neceflary for that 

His wants are more than thofe of any other 
animal that inhabits this globe ; and his refour- 
ces are proportioned to them, and put within the 
fphere of his power. 

E 2 The 

6& ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7. 

The earth is left by Nature in fuch a Hate as- 
to require cultivation for the accommodation of 

It is capable of cultivation, in moft places, to 
fuch a degree, that, by human labour, it may 
afford fubfiftence to an hundred times the num- 
ber of men it could in its natural Hate. 

Every tribe of men, in every climate, mull 
labour for their fubfiltence and accommodation ;. 
and their fupply is more or lefs comfortable, in 
proportion to the labour properly employed for 
that purpofe. 

It is evidently the intention of Nature, that 
man mould be laborious, and that he mould 
exert his powers of body and mind for his own, 
and for the common good. And, by his power 
properly applied, he may make great improve- 
ment upon the fertility of the earth, and a great 
addition to his- own accommodation and com- 
fortable ftate. 

By clearing, tilling and manuring the ground, 
by planting and fowing, by building cities and 
harbours, draining and lakes, making 
rivers navigable, and joining them by canals, by 
■manufacturing the rude materials which the earth, 
duly cultivated, produces in abundance, by the 
mutual exchange of commodities and of labour, 
he may make the barren wildernefs the habita- 
tion of rich and populous ftates. 

If we compare the city of Venice, the province. 
of Holland, the empire of Chins, with thofe 



places of the earth which never feit the hand of 
induftry, we may form fome conception of the 
extent of human power upon the material fy- 
ftem, in changing the face of the earth, and fur- 
•nifhing the accommodations of human life. 

But, in order to produce thofe happy changes, 
man himfelf mull be improved. 

His animal faculties are fufficient for the pre- 
servation of the fpecies ; they grow up of them- 
felves, like the trees of the foreit, which require 
only the force of Nature and the influences of 

His rational and moral faculties, like the earth 
itfelf, are rude and barren by Nature, but ca- 
pable of a high degree of culture ; and this cul- 
ture he muft receive from parents, from inftruc- 
tors, from thofe with whom he lives in fociety^, 
joined with his own induftry. 

If we contider the changes that may be pro- 
duced by man upon his own mind, and up- 
on the minds of others, they appear to be 

Upon his own mind he may make great im- 
provement, in acquiring the treaiures of ufeful 
knowledge, the habits of fkill in arts, the habits 
of wifdom, prudence, fe]f-eommand, and every 
other virtue. It is the conftitution of Nature;, 
that fuch qualities as exalt and dignify human 
nature are to be acquired by proper exertions j 
and, by a contrary conduct, fuch qualities as de- 
bafe it below the condition of brutes. 

E 3 Even 

7© ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7, 

Even upon the minds of others, great effe&s. 
may be produced by means within the compafs 
of human power ; by means of good education, 
of proper inftruction, of perfuafion, of good ex- 
ample, and by the difcipline of laws and govern- 

That thefe have often had great and good ef- 
fects on the civilization and improvement of in- 
dividuals, and of nations, cannot be doubted. 
But what happy effects they might have, if ap- 
plied univerfally with the fkill and addrefs that 
is within the reach of human wifdom and power, 
is not eafily conceived, or to what pitch the 
happinefs of human fociety, and the improve- 
ment of the fpecies, might be carried. 

What a noble, what a divine employment of 
human power is here affigned us ? How ought 
it to roufe the ambition of parents, of inftru&ors, 
of lawgivers, of magiftrates, of every man in his 
ftation, to contribute bis part towards the ac- 
complifhment of fo glorious an end ? 

The power of man over his own and other 
minds, when we trace it to its origin, is invol- 
ved in darknefs, no lefs than his power to move 
his own and other bodies. 

How far we are properly efficient caufes, how 
far occaiional caufes, I cannot pretend to deter- 

We know that habit produces great changes 
in the mind ; but how it does fo, we know not. 



We know, that example has a powerful, and, in 
the early period of life, almoft an irrefiftible ef- 
fect \ but we know not how it produces this ef- 
fect. The communication of thought, fentiment 
and paffion, from one mind to another, has fome- 
thing in it as myfterious as the communication 
of motion from one body to another. 

We perceive one event to follow another, ac- 
cording to eftablifhed laws of Nature, and we 
are accuftomed to call the firft the caufe, and 
the laft the effect, without knowing what is the 
bond that unites them. In order to produce a 
certain event, we ufe means which, by laws of 
Nature, are connected with that event ; and we 
call ourfelves the caufe of that event, though 
other efficient caufes may have had the chief 
hand in its production. 

Upon the whole, human power, in its exig- 
ence, in its extent, and in its exertions, is en- 
tirely dependent upon God, and upon the laws 
of Nature which he has eftablifhed. This 
ought to banifh pride and arrogance from 
the molt mighty of the fons of men. At the 
fame time, that degree of power which we 
have received from the bounty of Heaven, is one 
of the nobleft gifts of God to man ; of which we 
ought not to be infenfible, that we may not be 
ungrateful, and that we may be excited to make 
the proper ufe of it. 

The extent of human power is perfectly fuit- 
ed to the ftate of man, as a ftate of improvement 

E 4 and 

72 E S S A Y I. [CHAP. J, 

and difcipline. It is fufficient to animate us to 
the nobleft exertions. By the proper exercife 
of this gift of God, human nature, in individuals 
and in focieties, may be exalted to a high degree 
of dignity and felicity, and the earth become a 
paradife. On the contrary, its perverfion and 
abufe is the caufe of moft of the evils that afflict 
human life. 





Obfervations concerning the Will. 

EVERY man is confcious of a power to de- 
termine, in things which he conceives to 
depend upon his determination. To this power 
we give the name of will ; and, as it is ufual, in 
the operations of the mind, to give the fame 
name to the power and to the act of that power, 
the term will is often put to fignify the act of de- 
termining, which more properly is called volition. 

Volition, therefore, fignifies the act of willing 
and determining, and will is put indifferently to 
fignify either the power of willing or the act. 

But the term will has very often, efpecially in 
the writings of Philofophers, a more extenfive 
meaning, which we mull carefully diftinguifh 
from that which we have now given. 

In the general divifion of our faculties into 
underftanding and will, our paflions, appetites 
and affections, are comprehended under the will ; 
and fo it is made to fignify, not only our deter- 


mination to act: or not to act, but every motive 
and incitement to action. 

It is this, probably, that has led forae Philofo- 
phers to reprefent defire, averfion, hope, fear, 
joy, forrow, all our appetites, pafjions and affec- 
tions, as different modifications of the will, 
which, I think, tends to confound things which 
are very different in their nature. 

The advice given to a man, and his determi- 
nation confequent to that advice, are things fo 
different in their nature, that it would be im- 
proper to call them modifications of one and the 
fame thing. In like manner, the motives to ac- 
tion, and the determination to act or not to act, 
are things that have no common nature, and 
therefore ought not to be confounded under one 
name, or reprefented as different modifications of 
the fame thing. 

For this reafon, in fpeaking of the will in this 
Effay, I do not comprehend under that term any 
of the incitements or motives which may have 
an influence upon our determinations, but folely 
the determination itfelf, and the power to de- 

Mr Locke has confidered this operation of the 
mind more attentively, and diftinguifhed it more 
accurately, than fome very ingenious authors 
who wrote after him. 

He defines volition to be, " An act of the 
" mind knowingly exerting that dominion it 
C( takes itfelf to have over any part of the man, 

« by 


" by employing it in, or with-holding it from 
" any particular action." 

It may more briefly be defined, The deter- 
mination of the mind to do, or not to do fome- 
thing which we conceive to be in our power. 

If this were given as a ftrictly logical defini- 
tion, it would be liable to this objection, that the 
determination of the mind is only another term 
for volition. But it ought to be obferved, that 
the moll fimple acts of the mind do not admit 
of a logical definition. The way to form a clear 
notion of them is, to reflect attentively upon 
them as we feel them in ourfelves. Without 
this reflection, no definition can give us a di- 
ftinct conception of them. 

For this reafon, rather than fift any definition 
of the will, I mail make fome obfervations upon 
it, which may lead, us to reflect upon it, and to 
diftinguifti it from other acts of mind, which, 
from the ambiguity of words, are apt to be con- 
founded with it. 

Firjl, Every act of will muft have an object. 
He that wills muft will fomething ; and that 
which he wills is called the object of his volition. 
As a man cannot think without thinking of fome- 
thing, nor remember without remembering fome- 
thing, fo neither can he will without willing 
fomething. Every act of will, therefore, muft 
have an object ; and the perfon who wills muft 
have fome conception, more or lefs diftinct, of 
what he wills. 


76 ESSAY II. [chap. I. 

By this, things done voluntarily are diftin- 
guifhed from things done merely from inftinct, 
or merely from habit. 

A healthy child, fome hours after its birth, 
feels the fenfation of hunger, and, if applied to 
the breaft, fucks and fwallows its food very per- 
fectly. We have no reafon to think, that, before 
it ever fucked, it has any conception of that com- 
plex operation, or how it is performed. It can- 
not, therefore, with propriety, be faid, that it 
wills to fuck. 

Numberlefs inftances might be given of things 
done by animals without any previous concep- 
tion of what they are to do ; without the inten- 
tion of doing it. They acl by fome inward blind 
impulfe, of which the efficient caufe is hid from 
us ; and though there is an end evidently intend- 
ed by the action, this intention is not in the ani- 
mal, but in its Maker. 

Other things are done by habit, which cannot 
properly be called voluntary. We fhut our eyes 
feveral times every minute while we are awake ; 
no man is confcious of willing this every time 
he does it. 

A fecond obfervation is, That the immediate 
object of will muft be fome action of our own. 

By this, will is diftinguifned from two acts of 
the mind, which fometimcs take its name, and 
thereby are apt to be confounded with it ; thefe 
are deiire and command. 



The diftin&ion between will and defire has 
been well explained by Mr Locke ; yet many 
later writers have overlooked it, and have repre- 
fented defire as a modification of will. 

Delire and will agree in this, that both mull 
have an object., of which we mult have fome con- 
ception ; and therefore both muft be accompa- 
nied with fome degree of underltanding. But 
they differ in feveral things. 

The object of defire may be any thing which 
appetite, paffion or affection, leads us to purfue ; 
it may be any event which we think good for us, 
or for thofe to whom we are well affected. I 
may defire meat, or drink, or eafe from pain : 
But to fay that I will meat, or will drink, or 
will eafe from pain, is not Englifh. There is 
therefore a diftinction in common language be- 
tween defire and will. And the diftinction is 9 
That what we will mull be an action, and our 
own action ; what we defire may not be our own 
action, it may be no action at all. 

A man defires that his children may be happy, 
and that they may behave well. Their being 
happy is no action at all; their behaving well 
is not his action but theirs. 

With regard to our own actions, we may defire 
what we do not will, and will what we do not 
defire ; nay, what we have a great averfion to. 

A man a-thirft has a fcrong defire to drink, 
but, for fome particular reafon, he determines 
not to gratify his defire. A judge, from a regard 

78 £ S*SA Y ii. [CHAP. 1. 

to juftice, and to the duty of his office, dooms a 
criminal to die, while, from humanity or parti- 
cular affection, he defires that he mould live. A 
man for health may take a naufeous draught, for 
which he has no deiire but a great averuon. De- 
fire therefore, even when its object is fome ac- 
tion of our own, is only an incitement to will, 
but it is not volition. The determination of the 
mind may be, not to do what we deiire to do. 
But as deiire is often accompanied by will, we 
are apt to overlook the diitinction between them. 

The command of a perfon is fometimes called 
his will, fometimes his deiire ; but when thefe 
words are ufed properly, they lignify three dif- 
ferent acts of the mind. 

The immediate object of will is fome action 
of our own ; the object of a command is fome 
action of another perfon, over whom we claim 
authority ; the object of defire may be no ac- 
tion at all. 

In giving a command all thefe acts concur ; 
and as they go together, it is not uncommon in 
language, to give to one the name which proper- 
ly belongs to another. 

A command being a voluntary action, there 
mult be a will to give the command : Some de- 
fire is commonly the motive to that act of will, 
and the command is the effect of it. 

Perhaps it may be thought that a command is 
only a deiire expreffed by language, that the 
thing commanded mould be done. But it is not 



fo. For a deiire may be exprelTed by language 
when there is no command ; and there may 
poffibly be a command without any deiire that 
the thing commanded mould be done. There 
have been inftances of tyrants who have laid 
grievous commands upon their fubjects, in order 
to reap the penalty of their difobedience, or to 
furnifh a pretence for their puniihment. 

We might further obferve, that a command is 
a focial act of the mind. It can have no exift- 
ence but by a communication of thought to fome 
intelligent being ; and therefore implies a belief 
that there is fuch a being, and that we can com- 
municate our thoughts to him. 

Deiire and will are folitary ads, which do not 
imply any fuch communication or belief. 

The immediate object of volition therefore, 
mult be fome action, and our own action. 

A third obfervation is, That the object of our 
volition mult be fomething which we believe to 
be in our power, and to depend upon our will. 

A man may defire to make a vifit to the moon, 
or to the planet Jupiter, but he cannot will or de- 
termine to do it ; becaufe he knows it is not in 
his power. If an infane perfon mould make an 
attempt, his infanity mud firft make him believe 
it to be in his power. 

A man in his lleep may be ftruck with a palfy, 
which deprives him of the power of fpeech ; 
when he awake, he attempts to fpeak, not 
knowing that he has loft the pow^r. But when 



he knows by experience that the power is gone, 
he ceafes to make the effort. 

The fame man, knowing that fome perfons 
have recovered the power of fpeech after they 
had loft it by a paralytical flroke, may now and 
then make an effort. In this effort, however, 
there is not properly a will to fpeak, but a will 
to try whether he can fpeak or not. 

In like manner, a man may exert his ftrength 
to raife a weight which is too heavy for him. 
But he always does this, either from the belief 
that he can raife the weight, or for a trial whe- 
ther he can or not. It is evident therefore, that 
what we will muft be believed to be in our 
power, and to depend upon our will. 

The next obfervation is, That when we will to 
do a thing immediately, the volition is accompa- 
nied with an effort to execute that which we 

If a man wills to raife a great weight from the 
ground by the ftrength of his arm, he makes an 
effort for that purpofe proportioned to the weight 
he determines to raife. A great weight requires 
a great effort ; a finall weight a lefs effort. We 
fay indeed, that to raife a very fmall body re- 
quires no effort at all. But this, I apprehend, 
muft be underitood either as a figurative way of 
fpeaking, by which things very fmall are ac- 
counted as nothing ; or it is owing to our giving 
no attention to very fmall efforts, and therefore 
having no name for them. 



Great efforts, whether of body or mind, are 
attended with difficulty, and when long conti- 
nued produce laffitude, which requires that they 
fhould be intermitted. This leads us to reflect 
upon them and to give them a name. The name 
effort is commonly appropriated to them; and 
thofe that are made with eafe, and leave no fen- 
lible effect, pafs without obfervation and with- 
out a name, though they be of the fame kind, 
and differ only in degree from thofe to which 
the name is given. 

This effort we are confcious of, if we will but 
give attention to it ; and there is nothing in 
which we are in a more ftrict fenfe active. 

The lajl obfervation is, That in all determi- 
nations of the mind that are of any importance, 
there muft be fomething in the preceding ftate 
of the mind that difpofes or inclines us to that 

If the mind were always in a ftate of perfect 
indifference, without any incitement, motive, or 
reafon, to act, or not to aft, to act one way ra- 
ther than another, our active power, having no 
end to purfue, no rule to direct its exertions, 
would be given in vain. We fhould either be 
altogether inactive, and never will to do any 
thing, or our volitions would be perfectly un- 
meaning and futile, being neither wife nor fool- 
ifh, virtuous nor vicious. 

We have reafon therefore to think, that to 
every being to whom God hath given any de- 

Vot.. III. F gree 

02 ESSAY II. • [CK-AP. 2, 

gree of active power, he hath alfo given fome 
principles of adtion, for the direction of that 
power to the end for which it was intended. 

It is evident that, in the conftitution of man, 
there are various principles of action fuited to 
our ftate and fituation. A particular confidera- 
tion of thefe is the fubject of the next EiTay; in 
this we are only to confider them in general, 
with a view to examine the relation they bear 
to volition, and how it is influenced by them. 


Of the Influence of Incitements and Motives upon 
the miL 

'E come into the world ignorant of 'every 
thing, yet we mult do many things in 
order to our fubliltence and well-being. A new- 
born child may be carried in arms, and kept 
warm by his nurfe ; but he mult fuck and fwal- 
low his food for himfelf. And this mult be done 
before he has any conception of fucking or fwal- 
lowing, or of the manner in which they are to 
be performed. He is led by nature to do thefe 
actions without knowing for what end, or what 
he is about. This we call injiincl. 

In many cafes there is no time for voluntary 
determination. The motions mult go on fo ra- 
pidly, that the conception and volition of every 



movement cannot keep pace with them. In fome 
cafes of this kind, inftinct, in others habit, comes 
in to our aid. 

When a man {tumbles and lofes his balance, 
the motion neceffary to prevent his fall would 
come too late, if it were the confequence of think- 
ing what is fit to be done, and making a volun- 
tary effort for that purpofe. He does this in- 
ftinctively. / 

When a man beats a drum or plays a tune, he 
has not time to direct every particular beat or 
flop, by a voluntary determination ; but the ha- 
bit which may be acquired by exercife, anfwers 
the purpofe as well. 

By inftinct therefore, and by habit, we do 
many things without any exercife either of judg- 
ment or will. 

In other actions the will is exerted, but with- 
out judgment. 

Suppofe a man to know that, in order to live, 
he mult eat. What (hall he eat ? How much ? 
And how often ? His reafon can anfwer none 
of thefe queflions ; and therefore can give no 
direction how he mould determine. Here again 
Nature, as an indulgent parent, fupplies the de- 
fects of his reafon ; giving him appetite, which 
fhews him when he is to eat, how often, and how 
much -, and tafte, which informs him what he i% 
and what he is not to eat. And by thefe prin- 
ciples he is much better directed than he could 

Y 2 be 

$4 ESSAY II. [CHAP.. 2. 

"be without them, by all the knowledge he can 

As the Author of Nature has given us fome 
principles of action to fupply the defects of our 
linowledge, he has given others to fupply the de- 
fects of our wifdom and virtue. 

The natural delires, affections and paffions, 
which are common to the wife and to the foolifh,, 
to the virtuous and to the vicious, and even to 
the more fagacious brutes, ferve very often to di- 
rect the courfe of human actions. By thefe prin- 
ciples men may perform the moft laborious du- 
ties of life, without any regard to duty ; and do» 
what is proper to be done, without regard to pro- 
priety ; like a veffel that is carried on in her 
proper courfe by a profperous gale, without the 
ikill or judgment of thofe that are aboard. 

Appetite, affection, or paffion, give an impulfe 
to a certain action- In this impulfe there is no- 
judgment implied. It may be weak or flrong ^ 
we can even conceive it irrefftible. In the cafe 
of madrtefs it is fo. Madmen have their appe- 
tites and paffions ; but they want the power of 
feif- government ; and therefore we do not im- 
pute their actions to the man but to the difeafe. < 

In actions that proceed from appetite or paf- 
iiou, we are paffive in part, and only in part ac- 
tive They are therefore partly imputed to the 
paffion ; and if it is fuppoied fo be irrefiftible, 
T Ve do not impute thenxto the man at all. 



Even an American favage judges in this man- 
lier : When in a fit of drunkennefs he kills his 
friend : As loon as he comes to himfelf, he is 
very forry for what he has c one ; but pleads, that 
drink, and not he, was the caufe. 

We conceive brute-animals to have no fupe- 
rior principle to control their appetites and paf- 
fions. On this account, their actions are not iub- 
ject to law. Men are in a like ftate in infancy, 
in madnefs, and in the delirium ot a fever. They 
have appetites and paffions, but they want that 
which makes them moral agents, accountable 
for their conduct, and objects of moral approba- 
tion or of blame. 

In fome cafes, a ftronger impulfe of appetite or 
paffion may oppofe a weaker. Here alfo there may 
be determination and a&ion without judgment. 

Suppofe a foldier ordered to mount a breach, 
and certain of prefent death if he retreats, this 
man needs not courage to go on, fear is fufficient. 
The certainty of prefent death if he retreats, is 
an overbalance to the probability of being killed 
if he goes on. The man is pufhed by contrary 
forces, and it requires neither judgment nor ex- 
ertion to yield to the ftrongeft. 

A hungry dog acts by the fame principle, if 
meat is fet before him, with a threatening to beat 
him if he touch it. Hunger pufhes him forward, 
fear pufhes him back with more force, and the 
itrongett force prevails. 

Thus we fee, that, in many even of our volun- 
F 3 tary 

86 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 2. 

tary actions, we may act from the imp'ulfe of ap- 
petite, affection, or paffion, without any exercife 
of judgment, and much in the fame manner as 
brute-animals feem to a<5t. 

Sometimes, however, there is a calm in the 
mind from the gales of paffion or appetite, and 
the man is left to work his way, in the voyage of 
life, without thofe impulfes which they give. 
Then he calmly weighs goods and evils, which 
are at too great a alliance to excite any paffion. 
He judges what is heft upon the whole, without 
feeling any bias drawing him to one fide. He 
judges for himfelf as he would do for another 
in hi? fituation ; and the determination is wholly 
imputable to the man, and not in any degree to 
his paffion. 

Every man come to years of underilanding, 
who has given any attention to his own conduct, 
and to that of others, has, in his mind, a fcale or 
meafure of goods and evils, more or lefs exact. 
He makes an eitimate of the value of health, of 
reputation, of riches, of pleafure, of virtue, of 
felf-approbation, and of the approbation of his 
Maker. Thefe things, and their contraries, have 
a comparative importance in his cool and delibe- 
rate judgment. 

When a man confiders whether health ought 
to be preferred to bodily ftrength, fame to riches, 
whether a good conference and the approbation 
of his Maker, to every thing that can come in 
competition with it \ this appears to me to be an 



exercife of judgment, and not any impulfe of 
paffion or appetite. 

Every thing worthy of purfuit, muft be fo, 
either intrinfically, and upon its own account, or 
as the means of procuring fomething that is in- 
triniically valuable. That it is by judgment that 
we difcern the fitnefs of means for attaining an 
end, is felf-eviderrt ; and in this, I think, all Phi- 
lofophers agree. But that it is the office of judg- 
ment to appreciate the value of an end, or the 
preference due to one end above another, is not 
granted by fome Philofophers. 

In determining what is good or ill, and, of dif- 
ferent goods, which is belt, they think we mult 
be guided, not by judgment, but by fome natural 
or acquired tafte, which makes us relifh one 
thing and diflike another. 

Thus, if one man prefers cheefe to lobfters, 
another lobfters to cheefe, it is vain, fay they, to 
apply judgment to determine which is right. In 
like manner, if one man prefers pleafure to vir- 
tue, another virtue to pleafure, this is a matter 
of tafte, judgment has nothing to do in it. This 
feems to be the opinion of fome Philofophers. 

I cannot help being of a contrary opinion. I 
think we may form a judgment, both in the que- 
ition about cheefe and lobfters, and in the more 
important queftion about pleafure and virtue. 

When one man feels a more agreeable relifh 
in cheefe, another in lobfters, this, I grant, re- 
quires no judgmen ; it depends only upon the 
F a conftitution 

88 ESS^Y II. [chap. % 

conftitution of the palate. But, if we would de- 
termine which of the two has the bell tafte, I 
think the queftion mull be determined by judg- 
ment ; and that, with a fmall lhare of this fa- 
culty, we may give a very certain determination, 
to wit, that the two taftes are equally good, and 
that both of the perfons do equally well, in pre T 
ferring what fuits their palate and their flomach. 

Nay, I apprehend, that the two perfons who 
differ in their tafte will, notwithstanding that 
difference, agree perfectly in their judgment, that 
both taftes are upon a footing of equality, and 
that neither has a juil claim to preference. 

Thus it appears, that, in this inftance, the of- 
fice of tafte is very different from that of judg- 
ment ; and that men, who differ moft in tafte, 
may agree perfectly in their judgment, even with 
refpecl: to the taftes wherein they differ. 

To make the other cafe parallel with this, it 
mud be fuppofed, that the man of pleafure and 
the man of virtue agree in their judgment, and 
that neither fees any reafon to prefer the one 
courfe of life to the other. 

If this be fuppofed, I (hall grant, that neither 
of thefe perfons has reafon to condemn the 
other. Each choofes according to his tafte, in 
matters which his bed judgment determines to 
be perfectly indifferent. 

But it is to be obferved, that this fuppofition 
cannot have place, when we fpeak of men, or 
indeed of moral agents. The man who is in- 


capable of perceiving the obligation of virtue, 
when he ufes his heft judgment, is a man in 
name, but not in reality. He is incapable either 
of virtue or vice, and is not a moral agent. 

Even the man of pleafure, when his judgment 
is/unbiaffed, fees, that there are certain things 
which a man ought not to do, though he lhould 
have a tafte for them. If a thief breaks into 
his houfe and carries off his goods, he is per- 
fectly convinced that he did wrong and deferves 
punifhment, although he had as ilrong a relifh 
for the goods as he himfelf has for the pleafures 
he purfues. 

It is evident, that mankind, in all ages, have 
conceived two parts in the human conftitution 
that may have influence upon our voluntary ac- 
tions. Theie we call by the general names of 
pajfion and reafon ; and we mall find, in all lan- 
guages, names that are equivalent. 

Under the former, we comprehend various 
principles of action, fimilar to thofe we ob- 
serve in brute-animals, and in men who have 
not the ufe of reafon. Appetites, affeblions, paf- 
jions, are the names by which they are denomi- 
nated ; and thefe names are not fo accurately 
diftinguiihed in common language, but that they 
are ufed fomewhat promifcuoufly. This, how- 
ever, is common to them all, that they draw a 
man toward a certain object, without any far- 
ther view, by a kind of violence ; a violence 


9® ESSAY II. [CHAP. 2, 

which indeed may be refilled if the man is ma- 
iler of himfelf, but cannot be refilled without a 

Cicero's phrafe for expreffing their influence 
is, " Hominem hue et iliac rapiunt." Dr Hut- 
chzson ufes a fimilar phrafe, " Quibus agitatur 
" mens et bruto quodam impetu fertur." There 
is no exercife of reafon or judgment necelfary in 
order to feel their influence. 

With regard to this part of the human con- 
flitution, I fee no difference between the vulgar 
and Philofophers. 

As to the other part of our conflitution, which 
is commonly called reafon, as oppofed to paffion, 
there have been very fubtile difputes among mo- 
dern Philofophers, whether it ought to be called 
reafon, or be not rather fome internal fenfe or 

Whether it ought to be called reafon, or by 
what other name, I do not here inquire, but 
what kind of influence it has upon our volunta- 
ry actions. 

As to this point, I think, all men mull allow 
that this is the manly part of our conflitution, 
the other the brute part. This operates in a 
calm and difpaflionate manner ; a manner fo 
like to judgment or reafon, that even thofe who 
do not allow it to be called by that name, en- 
deavour to account for its having always had the 
name ; becaufe, in the manner of its operation, 
it has a fimilitude to reafon. 



As the fimilitude between this principle and 
reafon has led mankind to give it that name, fo 
the diffimilitude between it and paffion has led 
them to fet the two in oppofition. They have 
confidered this cool principle, as having an in- 
fluence upon our actions fo different from paffion, 
that what a man does coolly and deliberately, 
without paffion, is imputed folely to the man, 
whether it have merit or demerit ; whereas, what 
he does from paffion is imputed in part to the 
paffion. If the paffion be conceived to be irre- 
liftible, the action is imputed folely to it, and not 
at all to the man. If he had power to refill, and 
ought to have refilled, we blame him for not 
doing his duty j but, in proportion to the vio- 
lence of the paffion, the fault is alleviated. 

By this cool principle, we judge what ends are 
moll worthy to be purfued, how far every appe- 
tite and paffion may be indulged, and when it 
ought to be refilled. 

It directs us, not only to refift the impulfe of 
paffion when it would lead us wrong, but to 
avoid the occafions of inflaming it ; like Cyrus, 
who refufed to fee the beautiful captive princefs. 
In this he acted the part both of a wife and a 
good man ; firm in the love of virtue, and, at 
the fame time, confcious of the weaknefs of hu- 
man nature, and unwilling to put it to too fevere 
a trial. In this cafe, the youth of Cyrus, the 
incomparable beauty of his captive, and every 


$2. JiS SAY IU [CHAP. 2. 

circumftance which tended to inflame his defire, 
exalts the merit of his conduct in refilling it. 

It is in fuch a&ions that the fuperiority of 
human nature appears, and the fpecific differ- 
ence between it and that of brutes. In them 
we may obferve one paffion combating another, 
and the flrongeft prevailing ; but we perceive no 
calm principle in their conftitution, that is fupe- 
rior to every paffion, and able to give law to it. 

The difference between thefe two parts of our 
conftitution may be farther illuftrated by an in- 
Itance or two wherein paffion prevails. 

If a man, upon great provocation, ftrike an- 
other when he ought to keep the peace, he 
blames himfelf for what he did, and acknow- 
ledges that he ought not to have yielded to his 
paffion. Every other perfon agrees with his fo- 
ber judgment. They think he did wrong in 
yielding to his paffion, when he might and ought 
to have refilled its impulfe. If they thought it 
impoffible to bear the provocation, they would 
not blame him at all ; but believing that it was 
in his power, and was his duty, they impute to 
him fome degree of blame, acknowledging, at 
the fame time, that it is alleviated in proportion 
to the provocation ; fo that the trefpafs is impu- 
ted, partly to the man, and partly to the paffion. 
But, if a man deliberately conceives a defign of 
mifchief againft his neighbour, contrives the 
means, and executes it, the action admits of no 



alleviation, it is perfectly voluntary, and he bears 
the whole guilt of the evil intended and done. 

If a man, by the agony of the rack, is made 
to difclofe a fecret of importance, with which he 
is intrufted, we pity him more than we blame 
him. We coniider, that fuch is the weaknefs of 
human nature, that the refolution, even of a 
good man, might be overcome by fuch a trial. 
But if he have llrength of mind, which even the 
agony of the rack could not fubdue, we admire 
his fortitude as truly heroical. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that the common 
fenfe of men (which, in matters of common life, 
ought to have great authority) has led them to 
diflinguifli two parts in the human conftitution, 
which have influence upon our voluntary deter- 
minations. There is an irrational part, common 
to us with brute-animals, confirming of appetites, 
affections and paffions, and there is a cool and 
rational part. The firft, in many cafes, gives a 
flrong impulfe, but without judgment, and with- 
out authority. The fecond is always accompanied 
with authority. All wifdom and virtue confill in 
following its dictates ; all vice and folly in dif- 
obeying them. We may refill the impulfes of 
appetite and paffion, not only without regret, but 
with felf-applaufe and triumph ; but the calls of 
reafon and duty can never be refilled, without 
remorfe and ielf-condemnation. 

The ancient Philofophers agreed with the vul- 
gar, in making this diftincton of the priciples 
of action. The irrational part the Greeks cal- 

94 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 2, 

led eWu. Cicero calls it appetitus, taking that 
word in an extenfive fenfe,. fo as to include eve- 
ry propenfity to action which is not grounded 
on judgment. 

The other principle the Greeks called i»w?; 
Plato calls it the ^yn^onKov, or leading principle. 
" Duplex enim eft vis animorum atque natures" 
fays Cicero, " una pars in appetitu pojita eft, 
" quce eft ogp'ti Greece, qua hominem hue et illuc ra- 
" pit ; altera in ratione, quce docet, et explanat, 
" quid faciendum fugiendumve fit ; it a fit ut ratio 
" profit, appetitus obtemperet." 

The reafon of explaining this diftinction here 
is, that thefe two principles influence the will in 
different ways. Their influence differs, not in 
degree only, but in kind. This difference we 
feel, though it may be difficult to find words to 
exprefs it. We may perhaps more eafily form a 
notion of it by a fimilitude. 

It is one thing to pufh a man from one part of 
the room to another ; it is a thing of a very dif- 
ferent nature to ufe arguments to perfuade him 
to leave his place, and go to another. He may 
yield to the force which pufhes him, without any 
exercife of his rational faculties ; nay, he muff 
yield to it, if he do not oppofe an equal or a 
greater force. His liberty is impaired in fome 
degree ; and, if he has not power fufficient to 
oppofe, his liberty is quite taken away, and the 
motion cannot be imputed to him at all. The 
influence of appetite or pafffon feems to me to be 



very like to this. If the paffion be fuppofed ir- 
refiftible, we impute the action to it folely, and 
not to the man. If he had power to refill, but 
yields after a ftruggle, we impute the action, 
partly to the man, and partly to the paffion. 

If we attend to the other cafe, when the man 
is only urged by arguments to leave his place, 
this refembles the operation of the cool or ration- 
al principle. It is evident, that, whether he 
yields to the arguments or not, the determination 
is wholly his own act, and is entirely to be im- 
puted to him. Arguments, whatever be the de- 
gree of their ftrength, diminilh not a man's li- 
berty ; they may produce a cool conviction o£ 
what we ought to do, and they can do no more. 
But appetite and paffion give an impuife to act and 
impair liberty, in proportion to their ftrength. 

With molt men, the impuife of paffion is more 
effectual than bare conviction ; and, on this ac- 
count, orators, who would perfuade, find it ne- 
celTary to addrefs the paffions, as well as t; con- 
vince the underftanding ; and, in all fyftems of 
rhetoric, thefe two have been conlidered as dif- 
ferent intentions of the orator, and to be accom- 
plimed by different means, 

G H A P. 

96 ESSAY II. [CHAP, a 



Of Operations of Mind which may he called Vo- 

' I T HE faculties of underftanding and will are 
A eafily diftinguifhed in thought, but very 
rarely, if ever, disjoined in operation. 

In moft, perhaps in all the operations of mind 
for which we have names in language, both fa- 
culties are employed, and we are both intellec- 
tive and adtive. 

Whether it be poflible that intelligence may 
exift without fome degree of activity, or impof- 
iible, is perhaps beyond the reach of our facul- 
ties to determine \ but, I apprehend, that, in fact, 
they are always conjoined in the operations of 
our minds. 

It is probable, I think, that there is fome de- 
gree of activity in thofe operations which we re- 
fer to the underftanding ; accordingly, they have 
always, and in all languages, been exprefted by 
active verbs ; as, I fee, I hear, I remember, I ap- 
prehend, I judge, I reafon. And it is certain, 
that every act of will muft be accompanied by 
fome operation of the underftanding ; for he that 
wills muft apprehend what he wills, and appre- 
heniion belongs to the underftanding. 

The operations I am to confider in this chap- 
ter, I think, have commonly been referred to the 

underftunding ; 


understanding ; but we fhall find that the will 
has fo great a mare in them, that they may, with 
propriety, be called voluntary. They are thefe 
three, attention, deliberation, and fixed purpofe or 

Attention may be given to any object, either 
of fenfe or of intellect, in order to form a diftinct 
notion of it, or to difcover its nature, its attri- 
butes, or its relations. And fo great is the effect 
of attention, that, without it, it is impoffible to 
acquire or retain a diftinct notion of any object 
of thought. 

If a man hearadifcourfe without attention, what 
does he carry away with him ? If he fee St Pe- 
ter's or the Vatican without attention, What ac- 
count can he give of it ? While two perfons are 
engaged in interesting difcourfe, the clock ftrikes 
within their hearing, to which they give no at- 
tention, What is the confequence ? The next mi- 
nute they know not whether the clock ftruck or 
not. Yet their ears were not ihut. The ufual 
impreffion was made upon the organ of hearing, 
and upon the auditory nerve and brain ; but 
from inattention the found either was not per- 
ceived, or palled in the twinkling of an eye, 
without leaving the leaft veftige in the memory. 

A man fees not what, is before his eyes when 
his mind is occupied about another object. In 
the tumult of a battle a man may be fhot through 
the body without knowing any thing of the mat- 

Vol. III. G ter, 

98 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

ter, till he difcover it by the lofs of blood or of 

The moll acute fenfation of pain may be dead- 
ened, if the attention can be vigoroufly directed 
to another object. A gentleman of my acquain- 
tance, in the agony of a fit of the gout, ufed to 
call for the chefs -board. As he was fond of that 
game, he acknowledged that, as the game ad- 
vanced and drew his attention, the fenfe of pain 
abated, and the time feemed much fhorter. 

Archimedes, it is faid, being intent upon a 
mathematical propofition, when Syracufe was ta- 
ken by the Romans, knew not the calamity of 
the city, till a Roman foldier broke in upon his 
retirement, and gave him a deadly wound ; on 
which he lamented only that he had loft a fine 

It is needlefs to multiply inftances to mew, 
that when one faculty of the mind is intenfely 
engaged about any object, the other faculties are 
laid as it were fait afleep. 

It may be farther obferved, that if there be 
any thing that can be called genius in matters of 
mere judgment and reafoning, it feems to confift 
chiefly in being able. to give that attention to the 
fubject which keeps it fteady in the mind, till 
we can furvey it accurately on all fides. 

There is a talent of imagination, which bounds 
from earth to heaven, and from heaven to 
earth in a moment. This may be favourable to 
wit and imagery • but the powers of judging 



and reafoning depend chiefly upon keeping the 
mind to a clear and fteady view of the fubject.. 

Sir Isaac Newton, to one who compliment- 
ed him upon the force of genius, which had made 
men improvements in mathematics and natural 
philofophy, is faid to have made this reply, which 
was both modeft and judicious, That, if he had 
made any improvements in thofe fciences, it was 
owing more to patient attention than to any other 

Whatever be the effecls which attention may 
produce, (and I apprehend they are far beyond 
what is commonly believed), it is for the moil 
part in our power. 

Every man knows that he can turn his atten- 
tion to this fubjedt or to that, for a longer or a 
fhorter time, and with more or lefs intenfenefs, 
as he pleafes. It is a voluntary act, and depends 
upon his will. 

But what was before obferved of the will in 
general, is applicable to this particular exertion 
of it, That the mind is rarely in a ftate of indif- 
ference, left to turn its attention to the object 
which to reafon appears mofl deferving of it. 
There is, for the moft part, a bias to fome parti- 
cular object, more than to any other ; and this 
not from any judgment of its deferving our at- 
tention more, but from fome impulie or propen- 
fity, grounded on nature or habit. 

It is well known that things new and uncom- 
mon, things grand, and things that are beautiful, 

G 2 draw 


draw our attention, not in proportion to the in- 
tereft we have, or think we have in them, but in 
a much greater proportion. 

Whatever moves our paffions or affections 
draws our attention, very often, more than we 

You defire a man not to think of an unfor- 
tunate event which torments him. It admits of 
no remedy. The thought of it anfwers no pur- 
pofe but to keep the wound bleeding. He is 
perfectly convinced of all you fay. He knows 
that he would not feel the affliction, if he could 
only not think of it ; yet he hardly thinks of 
any thing elfe. Strange ! when happinefs and 
mifery Hand before him, and depend upon his 
choice, he choofes mifery, and rejects happinefs 
with his eyes open ! 

Yet he willies to be happy, as all men do. 
How fhall we reconcile this contradiction be- 
tween his judgment and his conduct ? 

The account of it feems to me to be this : The 
afflicting event draws his attention fo ftrongly, 
by a natural and blind force, that he either hath 
not the power, or hath not the vigour of mind 
to refill its impulfe, though he knows that to 
yield to it is mifery, without any good to ba- 
lance it. 

Acute bodily pain draws our attention, and 
makes it very difficult to attend to any thing elfe, 
even when attention to the pain ferves no other 
purpofe but to aggravate it tenfold. 



The man who played a game at chefs in the 
agony of the gout, to engage his attention to 
another object, acted the reafonable part, and 
confulted his real happinefs ; but it required a 
great effort to give that attention to his game, 
which was neceffary to produce the effect in-, 
tended by it. 

Even when there is no particular object that 
draws away our attention, there is a defultori- 
nefs of thought in man, and in fome more than 
in others, which makes it very difficult to give 
that fixed attention to important objects which 
reafon requires. 

It appears, I think, from what has been faid, 
that the attention we give to objects, is for the 
moft part voluntary : That a great part of wif- 
dom and virtue confifts in giving a proper direc- 
tion to our attention ; and that however reafon- 
able this appears to the judgment of every man, 
yet, in fome cafes, it requires an effort of felf- 
command no lefs than the moft heroic virtues. 

Another operation that may be called volun- 
tary, is deliberation about what we are to do or 
to forbear. 

Every man knows that it is in his power to 
deliberate or not to deliberate about any part of 
his conduct ; to deliberate for a fhorter, or a 
longer time, more carelefsly, or more ferioufly *. 
And when he has reafon to fufpect that his affec- 
tion may bias his judgment, he may either ho~ 
neftly ufe the beft means in his power to form an 

G 3 impartial 

102 ESSAY II. [CHAF. 3. 

impartial judgment, or he may yield to his bias, 
and only feek arguments to juftify what inclina- 
tion leads him to do. In all thefe points, he de- 
termines, he wills, the right or the wrong. 

The general rules of deliberation are perfectly 
evident to reafon when we confider them ab- 
flractly. Thev are axioms in morals, 

We ought not to deliberate in cafes that are 
perfectly clear. No man deliberates whether he 
ought to choofe happinefs or mifery. No honefl 
man deliberates whethe. he mail Heal his neigh- 
bour's property. When the cafe is not clear, 
when it is of importance, and when there is 
time for deliberation, we ought to deliberate 
with more or lefs care, in proportion to the im- 
portance of the action. In deliberation we ought 
to weigh things in an even balance, and to al- 
low to every confideration the weight which, 
in fober judgment, we think it ought to have, 
and no more. This is to deliberate impartially. 
Our deliberation mould be brought to an ifiue 
in due time, fo that we may not lofe the oppor- 
tunity of acting while we deliberate. 

The axioms of Euclid do not appear to me to 
have a greater degree of felf-evidence, than thefc 
rules of deliberation. And as far as a man ads 
according to them, his heart approves of him, 
and he has confidence of the approbation of the 
Searcher of hearts. 

But though the manner in which wc ought to 
deliberate be evident to reafon, it is not always 



eafy to follow it. Our appetites, our affections 
and paffions, oppofe all deliberation, but that 
which is employed in finding the means of their 
gratification. Avarice may lead to deliberate 
upon the ways of making money, but it does not 
diftinguifh between the honed and the difhoneft. 

We ought furely to deliberate how far every 
appetite and paffion may be indulged, and what 
limits fhould be fet to it. But our appetites and 
paffions pufh us on to the attainment of their 
objects, in the ihorteft road, and without delay. 

Thus it happens, that, if we yield to their im- 
pulie, we fhall often tranfgrefs thofe rules of de- 
liberation, which reafon approves. In this con- 
Hie! between the dictates of reafon, and the blind 
impulfe of paffion, we mufc voluntarily deter- 
mine. When we take part with our reafon, 
though in oppofition to paffion, we approve of 
our own conduct. 

What we call a fault of ignorance, is always 
owing to the want of due deliberation. When 
we do not take due pains to be rightly informed, 
there is a fault, not indeed in acting according to 
the light we have, but in not ufing the proper 
means to get light. For if we judge wrong, af- 
ter ufing the proper means of information, there 
is no fault in acting according to that wrong 
judgment ; the error is invincible. 

The natural coniequence of deliberation on 
any part of our conduct, is a determination how 

G 4 we 

104 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

we ihall act ; and if it is not brought to this iffue 
it is loft labour. 

There are two cafes in which a determination 
may take place ; when the opportunity of put- 
ting it in execution is prefent, and when it is at 
a di fiance. 

When the opportunity is prefent, the deter- 
mination to act is immediately followed by the 
action. Thus, if a man determine to rife and 
walk, he immediately does it, unlefs he is hin- 
dered by force, or has loll the power of walking. 
And if he lit itill when he has power to walk, 
we conclude infallibly that he has not deter- 
mined, or willed to walk immediately. 

Our determination or will to act, is not al- 
ways the refult of deliberation, it may be the 
effect of fome paffion or appetite, without any 
judgment interpofed. And when judgment is 
interpofed, we may determine and act either ac- 
cording to that judgment or contrary to it. 

When a man fits down hungry to dine, he eats 
from appetite, very often without exercifing his 
judgment at all; Nature invites and he obeys 
the call, as the ox, or the horfe, or as an infant 

When we converfe with perfons whom we 
love or refpect, we fay and do civil things mere- 
ly from affection or from refpect. They flow 
fpontaneoufly from the heart, without requiring^ 
any judgment. In fuch cafes we act as brute- 
animals do, or as children before the 11 fe of rea- 



fon. We feel an impulfe in our nature, and we 
yield to it. 

When a man eats merely from appetite, he 
does not confider the pleafure of eating, or its 
tendency to health. Thefe confiderations are not 
in his thoughts. But we can fuppofe a man who 
eats with a view to enjoy the pleafure of eating. 
Such a man reafons and judges. He will take 
care to ufe the proper means of procuring an 
appetite. He will be a critic in taftes, and make 
nice difcriminations. This man ufes his rational 
faculties even in eating. And however con- 
temptible this application of them may be, it is 
an exercife of which, I apprehend, brute-ani- 
mals are not capable. 

In like manner, a man may fay or do civil 
things to another, not from affection, but in or- 
der to ferve fome end by it, or becaufe he thinks 
it his duty. 

To act. with a view to fome diflant intereft, or 
to a£t from a fenfe of duty, feems to be proper 
to man as a reafonable being ', but to act merely 
from paffion, from appetite, or from affection, is 
common to him with the brute-animals. In the 
laft cafe there is no judgment required, but in 
the firft there is. 

To act againft what one judges to be for his 
real good upon the whole, is folly. To act againft 
what he judges to be his duty, is immorality., 
It cannot be denied, that there are too many in- 
stances of both in human life, Video meliora 


*06 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

proboque, deteriora fequor, is neither an impof- 
fible, nor an unfrequent cafe. 
- While a man does what he really thinks wifeft 
and beft to be done, the more his appetites, his 
affections and paffions draw him the contrary- 
way, the more he approves of his own conduct, 
and the more he is entitled to the approbation of 
every rational being. 

The third operation of mind I mentioned, 
which may be called voluntary, is, A fixed pur- 
pofe or refolution with regard to our future con- 

This naturally takes place, when any action, 
or courfe of action, about which we have deli- 
berated, is not immediately to be executed, the 
occafion of actinsr beinn; at fome diftance. 

A fixed purpofe to do, fome time hence, fome- 
thing which we believe fhall then be in our 
power, is flrictly and properly a determination 
of will, no lefs than a determination to do it in- 
ftantly. Every definition of volition agrees to 
it. Whether the opportunity of doing what we 
have determined to do be prefent or at fome di- 
ftance, is an accidental circumftance which does 
not affect the nature of the determination, and 
no good reafon can be affigned why it fhould 
not be called volition in the one cafe, as well as 
in the other. A purpofe or refolution, therefore, 
is truly and properly an act of will. 

Our purpofes are of two kinds. We may call 
the one particular, the other general. By a par- 


ticular purpofe, I mean that which has for its ob- 
ject an individual action, limited to one time and 
place ; by a general purpofe, that of a courfe or 
train of action, intended for fome general end;, 
or regulated by fome general rule. 

Thus, I may purpofe to go to London next 
winter. When the time comes, I execute my 
purpofe, if I continue of the fame mind ; and the 
purpofe, when executed, is no more. Thus it 
is with every particular purpofe. 

A general purpofe may continue for life ; and 9 
after many particular actions have been done in 
confequence of it, may remain and regulate fu- 
ture actions. 

Thus, a young man propofes to follow the 
profeffion of law, of medicine, or of theology. 
This general purpofe directs the courfe of his 
reading and ftudy. It directs him in the choice 
of his company and companions, and even of his 
diverfions. It determines his travels and the 
place of his abode. It has influence upon his 
drefs and manners, and a conliderable effect in 
forming his character. 

There are other fixed purpofes which have a 
itill greater effect in forming the character. I 
mean fuch as regard our moral conduct. 

Suppofe a man to have exercifed his intellec- 
tual and moral faculties, fo far as to have diftinct 
notions of juftice and injuftice, and of the con- 
fequences of both, and, after due deliberation, 
to have formed a fixed purpofe to adhere inflexi- 

I08 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

bly to juftice, and never to handle the wages of 

Is not this the man whom we mould call a juft 
man ? We confider the moral virtues as inhe- 
rent in the mind of a good man, even when there 
is no opportunity of exerciling them. And what 
is it in the mind which we can call the virtue of 
juftice, when it is not exercifed ? It can be no- 
thing but a fixed purpofe, or determination, to 
act according to the rules of juftice, when there 
is opportunity. 

The Roman law defined juftice, A Jieady and 
perpetual will to give to every man his due. When 
the opportunity of doing juftice is not prefent, 
this can mean nothing elle than a fteady pur- 
pofe, which i§ very properly called will. Such 
a purpofe, if it is fteady, will infallibly produce 
juft conduct ; for every known tranfgreffion of 
juftice demonftrates a change of purpofe, at leaft 
for that time. 

What has been faid of juftice, maybe fo eafily 
applied to every other moral virtue, that it is 
unnecefiary to give inftances. They are all fixed 
purpofes of acting according to a certain rule. 

By this, the virtues may be eafily diftinguifh- 
ed, in thought at leaft, from natural affections 
that bear the fame name. Thus, benevolence is 
a capital virtue, which, though not fo neceffary 
to the being of fociety, is entitled to a higher 
degree of approbation than even juftice. But 
there is a natural affection of benevolence, com- 


mon to good and bad men, to the virtuous and to 
the vicious. How mall thefe be diftinguifhed ? 

In practice, indeed, we cannot diftinguiih them 
in other men, and with difficulty in ourfelves j 
but in theory, nothing is more eafy. The vir- 
tue of benevolence is a fixed purpofe or refolu- 
tion to do good when we have opportunity, 
from a conviction that it is right, and is our du- 
ty. The affection of benevolence is a propenfi- 
ty to do good, from natural conftitution or ha- 
bit, without regard to rectitude or duty. 

There are good tempers and bad, which are a 
part of the conftitution of the man, and are real- 
ly involuntary, though they often lead to volun- 
tary actions. A good natural temper is not vir- 
tue, nor is a bad one vice. Hard would it be 
indeed to think, that a man fhould be born un- 
der a decree of reprobation, becaufe he has the 
misfortune of a bad natural temper. 

The Phyfiognomift faw, in the features of So- 
crates, the fignatures of many bad difpofitions, 
which that good man acknowledged he felt with- 
in him ; but the triumph of his virtue was the 
greater in having conquered them. 

In men who have no fixed rules of conduct, 
no felf-government, the natural temper is va- 
riable by numberlefs accidents. The man who 
is full of affection and benevolence this hour, 
when a crofs accident happens to ruffle him, or 
perhaps when an eafterly wind blows, feels a 
ftrange revolution in his temper. The kind and 


no ESSAY II. [chap. 3. 

benevolent affections give place to the jealous 
and malignant, which are as readily indulged in 
their turn, and for the fame reafon, becaufe he 
feels a propenfity to indulge them. 

We may obferve, that men who have exer- 
cifed their rational powers, are generally govern- 
ed in their opinions by fixed principles of be- 
lief; and men who have made the greateft ad- 
vance in felf-government, are governed, in their 
practice, by general fixed purpofes. Without 
the former, there would be no fteadinefs and 
confiftence in our belief; nor without the latter, 
in our conduct. 

When a man is come to years of understand- 
ing ; from his education, from his company, or 
from his ftudy, he forms to himfelf a fet of 
general principles, a creed, which governs his 
judgment in particular points that occur. 

If new evidence be laid before him which 
tends to overthrow any of his received prin- 
ciples, it requires in him a great degree of can- 
dour and love of truth, to give it an impartial 
examination, and to forma new judgment. Molt 
men, when they are fixed in their principles, 
upon what they account fufficient evidence, can 
hardly be drawn into a new and ferious exami- 
nation of them. 

They get a habit of believing them, which is 
Strengthened by repeated ads, and remains im- 
moveable, even when the evidence upon which 
their belief was at firft grounded, is forgot. 



It is this that makes converfions, either from 
religious or political principles, fo difficult. 

A mere prejudice of education flicks faft, as a 
proposition of Euclid does with a man who 
hath long ago forgot the proof. Both indeed 
are upon a fimilar footing. We reft in both, 
becaufe we have long done fo, and think we re- 
ceived them at firft upon good evidence, though 
that evidence be quite forgot. 

When we know a man's principles, we judge 
by them, rather than by the degree of his un- 
demanding, how he will determine in any point 
which is connected with them. 

Thus, the judgment of moil men who judge 
for thenifelves is governed by fixed principles ; 
and, I apprehend, that the conduct of moil men 
who have any felf-government, and any conlifl- 
ency of conduct, is governed by fixed purpofes. 

A man of breeding may, in his natural tem- 
per, be proud, paffionate, revengeful, and in his 
morals a very bad man ; yet, in good company, 
he can ftifle every paffion that is inconfiitent with 
good breeding, and be humane, modefl, com- 
plaifant, even to thofe whom in his heart he de- 
fpifes or hates. Why is this man, who can com- 
mand all his pafiions before company, a Have to 
them in private ? The reafon is plain : He has a 
fixed relolution to be a man of breeding, but 
hath no fuch refolution to be a man of virtue. 
He hath combated his moil violent pafiions a 
thoufand times before he became rnafler. of them 

112 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

in company. The fame refolution and perfeve- 
rance would have given him the command of 
them when alone. 

A fixed refolution retains its influence upon 
the conduit, even when the motives to it are not 
in view, in the fame manner as a fixed principle 
retains its influence upon the belief, when the 
evidence of it is forgot. The former may be 
called a habit of the will, the latter a habit of 
the underftanding. By fuch habits chiefly, men 
are governed in their opinions, and in their prac- 

A man who has no general fixed purpofes, 
may be faid, as Pope fays of moft women, (I 
hope unjuftly) to have no character at all. He 
will be honeft or dilhoneft, benevolent or mali- 
cious, companionate or cruel, as the tide of his 
pafiions and affections drives him. This, how- 
ever, I believe, is the cafe of but a few in ad- 
vanced life, and thefe, with regard to conduct, 
the weakeft and moft contemptible of the fpe- 

A man of fome conftancy may change his ge- 
neral purpofes once or twice in life, feldom more. 
From the purfuit of pleafure in early life, he may 
change to that of ambition, and from ambition 
to avarice. But every man who ufes his reafon 
in the conduct of life, will have fome end, to 
which he gives a preference above all others. 
To this he fleers his courfe ; his projects and his 
actions will be regulated by it. Without this, 



there would be no cOnfiitency in his conduct. 
He would be like a (hip in the Ocean, which is 
bound to no port, under no government, but left 
to the mercy of winds and tides. 

We obferved before, that there are moral rules 
refpecling the attention we ought to give to ob- 
jects and refpecling our deliberations, which are 
no lefs evident than mathematical axioms. The 
fame thing may be obferved with refpect to our 
fixed purposes, whether particular or general. 

Is it not felf-evident, that, after due delibera- 
tion, we ought to refolve upon that conduct, or 
that co-urfe of conduct, which, to our fober 
judgment, appears to be belt and moft approv- 
able ? That we ought to be firm and iteady in 
adhering to fuch refolutions, while we are per- 
fuaded that they are right ; but open to convic- 
tion, and ready to change our courfe, when we 
have good evidence that it is wrong ; 

Ficklenefs, inconstancy, facility, on the one 
hand, wilr'ulnefs, inflexibility, and obftinacy, on 
the other, are moral qualities, refpecting our pur- 
poses, which every one fees to be wrong. A 
manly firmnefs, grounded upon rational convic- 
tion, is the proper mean which every man ap« 
proves and reveres. 

Vol. III." H CHAP, 

114 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4, 



.-.;.'. ,.:.... . 

FROM what has been faid concerning the 
will, it appears, j6r/2, That, as fome acts of 
the will are tranfient and momentary, fo others 
are permanent, and may continue for a long 
time, or even through die whole courfe of our 
rational life. 

When I will to ftretch out my hand, that will 
is at an end as foon as the action is done. It is 
an act of the will which begins and ends in a- 
moment. But when I will to attend to a mathe- 
matical proportion, to examine the demonftration 
and the confequences that may be drawn from it, 
this will may continue for hours. It mull con- 
tinue as long as my attention continues ; for no 
man attends to a mathematical propofition long- 
er than he wills. 

The fame thing may be faid of deliberation, 
with regard, either to any point of conduct, or 
with regard to any general courfe of conducl:. 
We will to deliberate as long as we do deliberate 5 
and that may be for days or for weeks. 

A purpofe or refolution, which we have fhewn 
to be an act of the will, may continue for a great 
part of life, or for the whole, after we are of age 
to form a refolution. 



Thus, a merchant may refolve, that, after he 
has made fuch a fortune by traffic, he will give it 
up, and retire to a country life. He may con- 
tinue this refolution for thirty or forty years, 
and execute it at lait \ but he continues it no 
longer than he wills, for he may at any time 
change his refolution. 

There are, therefore, acls of the will which 
are not tranfient and momentary, which may 
continue long, and grow into a habit. This de- 
ferves the more to be obferved, beeaufe a very 
eminent Philofopher has advanced a contrary 
principle, to wit, That all the acts of the will 
are tranfient and momentary ; and from that 
principle has drawn very important conclufions 
with regard to what conftitutes the moral cha- 
racter of man. 

Afecond corollary is, That nothing in a man, 
wherein the will is not concerned, can juiily be 
accounted either virtuous or immoral. 

That no blame can be imputed to a man for 
what is altogether involuntary, is fo evident in 
itfelf, that no arguments can make it more evi- 
dent. The practice of all criminal courts, in all 
enlightened nations, is founded upon it. 

If it fhould be thought an objection to this 
maxim, that, by the laws of all nations, children 
often fuffer for the crimes of parents, in which 
they had no hand, the anfv/er is eafy. 

For, fir ft, Such is the connexion between pa- 
rents and children, that the puniihment of a pa- 
Hi 2 vers. 

Il6 ESSAY 11. [CHAP. 4, 

rent mud hurt his children whether the law will 
or not. If a man is fined, or imprifoned ; if he 
lofes life, or limb, or eftate, or reputation, by the 
hand of juftice, his children fuffer by neceflary 
confequence. Secondly, When laws intend to 
appoint any punifnment of innocent children 
for the father's crime, fuch laws are either un- 
juft, or they are to be confidered as acts of po- 
lice, and not of jurifprudence, and are intended 
as an expedient to deter parents more effectual- 
ly from the commiffion of the crime. The in- 
nocent children, in this cafe, are facrificed to the 
public good, in like manner, as, to prevent the 
fpreading of the plague, the found are fhut up 
with the infected in a houfe or Ihip, that has the 

By the law of England, if a man is killed by 
an ox goring him, or a cart running over him, 
though there be no fault or neglect in the own- 
er, the ox or the cart is a deodand, and is con- 
fiscated to the Church. The Legiflature furely 
did not intend to punifh the ox as a criminal, 
far lefs the cart. The intention evidently was, 
to infpire the people with a facred regard to the 
life of man. 

When the Parliament of Paris, with a fimilar 
intention, ordained the houfe in which Ravilliac 
was born, to be razed to the ground, and never 
to be rebuilt, it would be great weaknefs to con- 
clude, that that wife judicature intended to pu- 
nifh the houfe, 



If any judicature fhould, in any inftance, find 
a man guilty, and an object of punifhment, for 
what they allowed to be altogether involuntary, 
all the world would condemn them as men who 
knew nothing of the firit and moil fundamental 
rules of juftice. 

I have endeavoured to mew, that, in our at- 
tention to objects, in order to form a right judg- 
ment of them; in our deliberation about parti- 
cular actions, or about general rules of conduct ; 
in our purpofes and refolutions, as well as in the 
execution of them, the will has a principal fhare. 
If any man could be found, who, in the whole 
eourfe of his life, had given due attention to 
things that concern him, had deliberated duly 
and impartially about his conduct, had formed 
his refolutions, and executed them according to 
his belt judgment and capacity, furely fuch a 
man might hold up his face before God and man, 
and plead innoceace. He mull be acquitted by 
the impartial Judge, whatever his natural tem- 
per was, whatever his paffions and affections, as 
far as they were involuntary. 

A third corollary is, That all virtuous habits, 
when we diitinguifh them from virtuous actions, 
confift in fixed purpofes of acting according to 
the rules of virtue, as often as we have opportu- 

We can conceive in a man a greater or a 
lefs degree of ileadinefs to his purpofes or refo- 
lutions ; but that the general tenor of his con- 
H 3 dud 


duel mould be contrary to them, is impof- 

The man who has a determined refolution to 
do his duty in every inftance, and who adheres 
iteadily to his refolution, is a perfect man. The 
man who has a determined purpofe of carrying 
on a courie of action which he knows to be 
wrong, is a hardened offender. Between thefe 
extremes there are many intermediate degrees 
of virtue and vice. 


I in ■■■i«m»»miiii— arum 




Of the Mechanical Principles of Action. 


Of the Principles of Aclion in general, 

N the ftrici philofophical fenfe, nothing can 
be called the action of a man, but what he 
previoufly conceived and willed or determined 
to do. In morals we commonly employ the 
w T ord in this fenfe, and never impute any thing 
to a man as his doing, in which his will was not 
interpofed. But when moral imputation is not 
concerned, we call many things actions of the 
man, which he neither previoufly conceived nor 
willed. Hence the actions of men have been 
diftinguifhed into three clafTes, the voluntary, the 
involuntary, and the mixed. By the laft are 
meant fuch actions as are under the command of 
the will, but are commonly performed without 
any interpolation of will. 

We cannot avoid uiing the word aclion in this 

popular fenfe, without deviating too much from 

H 4 tjie 

1 20 ESSAY III. [CHAP. I. 

the common ufe of language j and it is in this 
fenfe we ufe it when we inquire into the prin- 
ciples of action in the human mind.,. 

By principles of action, I underftand every 
thing that incites us to a£t. , 

If there were no incitements to action, active 
power would he given us in vain.. Having no 
motive to direct our active exertions, the mind 
would, in all cafes, be in a ftate of perfect in- 
difference, to do this or that, or nothing at all. 
The active power would either not be exerted 
at all, or its exertions would be perfectly un- 
meaning and frivolous, neither wife nor foolifh, 
neither good nor bad. To every action that is 
of the fmalleft importance, there muft be feme 
incitement, fome motive, fome reafon. 

It is therefore a moil important part of the 
phjlofophy of the human mind, to have a diftinct 
•and jutt view of the various principles of action, 
which the Author of our being hath planted in 
our nature, to arrange them properly, and to 
aflign to every one its rank. 

By this it is, that we may difcover the end of 
our being, and the part which is ailigned us up- 
on the theatre of life. In this part of the hu- 
man conftitution, the nobleft work of God that 
falls within our notice, we may difcern moll 
clearly the character of him who made us, and 
how he would have us to employ that active 

power which he hath given us. 



I cannot without great diffidence enter upon 
this fubject, obferving that almoft every author 
of reputation, who has given attention to it, has 
a fyftem of his own ; and that no man has been 
fo happy as to give general fatisfaction to thofe 
who came after him. 

There is a branch of knowledge much valued, 
and very juftly, which we call knowledge of the 
world, knowledge of mankind, knowledge of 
human nature : This, I think, confifts in know- 
ing from what principles men generally act ; 
and it is commonly the fruit of natural fagacity 
joined with experience. 

A man of fagacity, who has had occafion to 
deal in intereiling matters, with a great variety 
of perfons of different age, fex, rank and pro- 
feffion, learns to judge what may be expected 
from men in given circumftances ; and how they 
may be moft effectually induced to act the part 
which he defires. To know this is of fo great 
importance to men in active life, that it is called 
knowing men, and knowing human nature. 

This knowledge may be of confiderable ufe 
to a man who would fpeculate upon the fubject 
we have propofed, but is not, by itfelf, fufficient 
for that purpofe. 

The man of the world conjectures, perhaps 
with great probability, how a man will act in 
certain given circumftances ; and this is all he 
wants to know. To enter into a detail of the 
various principles which influence the actions of 



men, to give them difhindt names, to define them, 
mid to afcertain their different provinces, is the 
bulinefs of a philofopher, and not of a man of 
the world ; and, indeed, it is a matter attended 
with great difficulty from various caufes. 

Firft, On account of the great number of ac- 
tive principles that influence the actions of men. 

Man has, not without reafon, been called an 
•epitome of the univerfe. His body, by which 
his mind is greatly affected, >being a part of the 
material fyftem, is fubjeet to all the laws of in- 
animate matter. During fome part of his exift- 
ence, his ftate is very like that of a vegetable. 
He riles, by imperceptible degrees, to the ani- 
mal, and, at laft, to the rational life, and has 
the principles that belong to all. 

Another caufe of the difficulty of tracing the 
various principles of action in man, is, That the 
fame action, nay, the fame courfe and train of 
action may proceed from very different prin- 

Men who are fond of a hypothecs, commonly 
feek no other proof of its truth, but that it ferves 
to \ account for the appearances which it is 
brought to explain. This is a very flippery 
kind of proof in every part of philofophy, and 
never to be trufted ; but lead of all, when the ap- 
pearances to be accounted for are human actions. 

Moil actions proceed from a variety of prin- 
ciples concurring in their direction ; and accord- 
ing as we are difpofe-d to judge favourably or 



unfavourably of the perfon, or of human nature 
in general, we impute them wholly to the beft, 
or wholly to the word, overlooking others which 
Jiad no fmall fhare in them. 

The principles from which men act can be 
difcovered only in thefe two ways ; by attention 
to the conduct of other men, or by attention to 
our own conduct, and to what we feel in our- 
felves. There is much uncertainty in the for- 
mer, and much difficulty in the latter. 

Men differ much in their characters ; and we can 
obferve the conduct of a few only of the fpecies. 
Men differ not only from other men, but from 
themfelves at different times, and on different 
occalions ; according as they are in the company 
of their fuperiors, inferiors, or equals ; accord- 
ing as they are in the eye of ftrangers, or of 
their familiars only, or in the view of no human 
eye j according as they are in good or bad for- 
tune, or in good or bad humour. We fee but a 
fmall part of the actions of our moil familiar 
acquaintance ; and what we fee may lead us to 
a probable conjecture, but can give no certain 
knowledge of the principles from which they act, 

A man may, no doubt, know with certainty 
the principles from which he himfelf acts, be- 
caufe he is confcious of them. But this know- 
ledge requres an attentive reflection upon the 
operations of his own mind, which is very rarely 
to be found. It is perhaps more ealy to find a 
man who has formed a juft notion of the cha- 


radter of man in general, or of thofe of his fa- 
miliar acquaintance, than one who has a juft no- 
tion of his own character. 

Moll men, through pride and felf-flattery, are 
apt to think themfelves better than they really 
are ; and fome, perhaps from melancholy, or 
from falfe principles of religion, are led to think 
themfelves worfe than they really are. 

It requires, therefore, a very accurate and im- 
partial examination of a man's own heart, to be 
able to form a diftinct notion of the various 
principles which influence his conduct. That this 
is a matter of great difficulty, we may judge from 
the very different and contradictory fyftems of 
Philofophers upon this fubject, from the earlieft 
ages to this day. 

During the age of Greek Philcfophy, the Pla- 
tonilt, the Peripatetic, the Stoic, the Epicurean, 
had each his own fyftem. In the dark ages, the 
Schoolmen and the My flics had fy Items diame- 
trically oppolite j and, lince the revival of learn- 
in ", no controverfy hath been more keenly agi- 
tated, eipecially among JBritifh Philofophers, 
than that about the principles of action in the 
human conftitution. 

They have determined, to the fatisfaction of 
the learned, the forces by which the planets and 
comets traverie the boundlefs regions of fpace ; 
but have not been able to determine, with any 
degree of unanimity, the forces which every 



man is confcious of in himfelf, and by which 
his conduct is directed. 

Some admit no principle but felf-love ; others 
refolve all into love of the pleafures of fenfe, va- 
rioufly modified by the aflbciation of ideas \ 
others admit difinterefted benevolence along 
with felf-love ; others reduce all to reafon and 
paffion ; others to paffion alone ; nor is there 
lefs variety about the number and diftribution 
of the paffions. 

The names we give to the various principles 
of action, have fo little precifion, even in the 
belt and pureft writers in every language, that, 
on this account, there is no. fmall difficulty in 
giving them names, and arranging them properly. 

The words appetite, pajjion, ajjeclion, interefr, 
reafon, cannot be faid to have one definite fig* 
nification. They are taken fometimes in a lar- 
ger, and fometimes in a more limited fenfe. The 
fame principle is fometimes called by one of 
thofe names, fometimes by another ; and prin- 
ciples of a very different nature are often called 
by the fame name. 

To remedy this confufion of names, it might 
perhaps feem proper to invent new ones. But 
there are fo few entitled to this privilege, that 
I fhall not lay claim to it ; but mail endeavour 
to clafs the various principles of human action as 
diftinctly as I am able, and to point out their 
fpecific differences ; giving them fuch names as 


126 ESSAY III. [CHAP. & 

may deviate from the common ufe of the words 
as little as poffible. 

There are fome principles of action which 
require no attention, no deliberation, no will. 
Thefe, for diftin&ion's fake, we mall call me- 
chanical. Another clafs we may call animal, as 
they feem common to man with other animals. 
A third clafs we may call rational, being pro^ 
per to man as a rational creature. 



THE mechanical principles of action may, It 
think, be reduced to two fpecies, injlinfa 
and habits. 

By inftinct, I mean a natural blind impulfe to 
certain actions, without having any end in view, 
without deliberation, and very often without any 
conception of what we do. 

Thus a man breathes while he is alive, by the 
alternate contraction and relaxation of certain 
mufcles, by which the chefl, and of confequence 
the lungs, are contracted and dilated. There is 
no reafon to think, that an infant new-born, 
knows that breathing is neceffary to life in its 
new ftate, that he knows how it muft be perform- 
ed, or even that he ,has any thought or concep- 
tion of that operation; yet he breathes as foon as 
he is born with perfect regularity, as if he had 
been taught, and got the habit by long practice. 



By the fame kind of principle, a new-born child, 
when its ftomach is emptied, and nature has 
brought milk into the mother's bread, fucks and 
fwallows its food as perfectly as if it knew the 
principles of that operation, and had got the ha- 
bit of working according to them. 

Sucking and fwallowing are very complex ope- 
rations. Anatomifts defcribe about thirty pairs of 
mufcles that mull be employed in every draught. 
Of thofe mufcles, every one mud be ferved by its 
proper nerve, and can make no exertion but by 
fome influence communicated by the nerve. The 
exertion of all thofe mufcles and nerves is not fi« 
multaneous. They muiV fucceed each other in 
a certain order, and their order is no lefs hecef- 
fary than the exertion itfelf. 

This regular train of operations is carried on 
according to the niceft rules of art, by the infant, 
who has neither art, nor fcience, nor experience, 
nor habit. 

That the infant feels the uneafy fenfation of 
hunger, I admit ; and that it fucks no longer 
than till this fenfation be removed. But who in- 
formed it that this uneafy fenfation might be re- 
moved, or by what means ? That it knows no- 
thing of this is evident ; for it will as readily fuck 
a- finger, or a bit of (lick, as the nipple, 

By a like principle it is, that infants cry when 
they are pained or hurt; that they are afraid 
when left alone, efpecially in the dark ; that they 
it art when in danger of falling; that they arc 


128 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2. 

terrified by an angry countenance, or an angry 
tone of voice, and are foothed and comforted by 
a placid countenance, and by foft and gentle tones 
of voice. 

In the animals we are beft acquainted with, 
and which we look upon as the more perfecT: of 
the brute- creation, we fee much the fame in- 
ftincts as in the human kind, or very fimilar 
ones, fuited to the particular ftate and mariner of 
life of the animal. 

Befides thefe, there are in brute-animals in- 
ftincts peculiar to each tribe, by which they 
are fitted for defence, for offence, or for provi- 
ding for themfelves, and for their offspring. 

It is not more certain, that Nature hath furnifh- 
ed various animals with various weapons of of- 
fence and defence, than that the fame nature hath 
taught them how to ufe them ; the bull and the 
ram to butt, the horfe to kick, the dog to bite, 
the lion to ufe his paws, the boar his tufks, the fer- 
pent his fangs, and the bee and wafp their fling. 
The manufactures of animals, if we may call 
them by that name, prefent us with a wonder- 
ful variety of inftincts, belonging to particular 
fpecies, whether of the focial or of the folitary 
kind ; the nefts of birds, fo fimilar in their fitua- 
tion and architecture in the fame kind, fo various 
in different kinds ; the webs of fpiders, and of 
other fpinning animals ; the ball of the iilk- 
worm ; the nefts of ants and other mining ani- 
mals ; 


mals; the combs of wafps, hornets and bees ; the 
dams and hottfes of beavers. 

The inftincl of animals is one of the moll de- 
lightful and inftructive parts of a moll pleafant 
fludy, that of natural hiftory ; and deferves to be 
more cultivated than it has yet been. 

Every manufacturing art among men was in- 
vented by fome m$n, improved by Mothers, - and 
brought to perfection by time and experience. 
Men learn to work in it by long practice, which 
produces a habit. The arts of men vary in eve- 
ry age, and in every nation, and are found only 
in thofe who have been taught them. 

The manufactures of animals differ from thofe 
of men in many linking particulars. 

No animal of the fpecies can claim the inven- 
tion. No animal ever introduced any new im- 
provement, or any variation from the former prac- 
tice. Every one of the fpecies has equal Ikill from 
the beginning, without teaching, without experi- 
ence or habit. Every one has its art by a kind 
of infpiration. 1 do not mean that it is infpired 
with the principles or rules of the art, but with 
the ability and inclination of working in it to 
perfection, without any knowledge of its prin- 
ciples, rules, or end. 

The more fagacious animals may be taught to 
do many things which they do not by inftinct. 
What they are taught to do, they do with more 
or lei's Ikill, according to their fagacity and their 

Vol. HI. I training 

130- ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2. 

training. But, in their own arts, they need no 
teaching nor training, nor is the art ever impro- 
ved or loft. Bees gather their honey and their 
wax, they fabricate their combs and rear their 
young at this day, neither better nor worfe than 
they did when Virgil fo fweetly fung 'their 

The work of every animal is indeed like the 
works of Nature, perfect in its kind, and can bear 
the moft critical examination of the mechanic or 
the mathematician. One example from the ani- 
mal lait mentioned may ferve to illuftrate this. 

Bees, it is well known, conftrucl; their combs 
with fmall cells on both fides, fit both for hold- 
ing their ftore of honey, and for rearing their 
young. There are only three poffible figures of 
the cells, which can make them all equal and fi- 
milar, without any ufelefs interftices. Thefe are 
the equilateral triangle, the fquare, and the regu- 
lar hexagon. 

It is well known to mathematicians, that there 
is not a fourth way poffible, in which a plane 
may be cut into little fpaces that ihall be equal, 
fimilar and regular, without leaving any inter- 
ftices. Of the three, the hexagon is the moft 
proper, both for conveniency and ftrength. Bees, 
as if they knew this, make their cells regular 

As the combs have cells on both fides, the 
ceils may either be exactly oppofite, having par- 


fcition againft partition, or the bottom of a cell 
may reft upon the partitions between the cells 
on the other fide, which will ferve as a buttrefs 
to ftrengthen it. The laft way is beft for ftrength ; 
accordingly, the bottom of each cell refts againit 
the point where three partitions meet on the 
other fide, which gives it all the ftrength poffible. 

The bottom of a cell may either be one plane 
perpendicular to the lide-partitions, or it may be 
compofed of feveral planes, meeting in a folid 
angle in the middle point. It is only in one of 
thefe two ways, that all the cells can be ilmilar 
without ioiing room. And, for the fame inten- 
tion, the planes of which the bottom is compo- 
fed, if there be more than one, muft be three in 
number, and neither more nor fewer. 

It has been demonllrated, that, by making the 
bottoms of the cells to coniift of three planes 
meeting in a point, there is a faving of material 
and labour no way inconfiderable. The bees, as 
if acquainted with thefe principles of folid geo- 
metry, follow them moil accurately ; the bot- 
tom of each cell being compofed of three planes 
which make obtufe angles with the lide-parti- 
tions, and with one another, and meet in a point 
in the middle of the bottom ; the three angles 
of this bottom being fupported by three parti- 
tions on the other fide of the comb, and the point, 
of it by the common interferon of thofe three 

I 2 One 

*3 2 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 1, 

One inftance more of the mathematical fkill 
difplayed in the ftru&ure of a honey-comb de- 
ferves to be mentioned. 

It is a curious mathematical problem, at what 
precife angle the three planes which compofethe 
bottom of a cell ought to meet, in order to 
make the greateft poflible faving, or the leaft ex- 
pence, of material and labour. 

This is one of thofe problems, belonging to 
the higher parts of mathematics, which are call- 
ed problems of maxima and minima. It has been 
refolved by fome mathematicians, particularly by 
the ingenious Mr, by a fluxionary 
calculation, w T hich is to be found in the Trans- 
actions of the Royal Society of London. He 
has determined precisely the angle required ; and 
he found, by the moft exact menfuration the 
fubjecl could admit, that it is the very angle, in 
which the three planes in the bottom of the cell 
of a honey-comb do actually meet. 

Shall we afe here, who taught the bee the pro- 
perties of folids, and to refolve problems of maxi- 
ma and minima ? If a honey-comb were a work 
of human art, every man of common fenfe would 
conclude, without hefitation, that he who in- 
vented the conftruction, muft have underftood 
the principles on which it is conitructed. 

We need not fay that bees know none of thefe 
things. They work moft geometrical , with- 
out any knowledge of geometry ; fomewhat like 
a child, who, by turning the handle of an organ, 



makes good mufic, without any knowledge of 

The ait is not in the child, but in him who 
made the organ. In like manner, when a bee 
makes its combs fo geometrically, the geometry 
is not in the bee, but in that great Geometrician 
who made the bee, &nd made all things in num- 
ber, weight and meafure. 

To return to inftincts in man ; thofe are moft 
remarkable which appear in infancy, when we 
are ignorant of every thing neccftary to our pre- 
fervation, and therefore muft perifh, if we had not 
an invifible Guide, who leads us blind-fold in the 
way we Ihould take, if we had eyes to fee it. 

Belides the inftincts which appear only in in- 
fancy, and are intended to fupply the want of 
underftanding in that early period, there are 
many which continue through life, and which 
fupply the defects of our intellectual powers in 
every period. Of theie we may obferve three 

Firft, There are many things neceffary to be 
done for our prefervation, which, even when we 
will to do, we know not the means by which 
they muft be done. 

A man knows that he muft fwallow his food 
before it can nouriih him. But this action re- 
quires the co-operation of many nerves and 
mufcles, of which he knows nothing ; and if it 
were to be directed folely by his underftanding 

I 3 and 

134 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2. 

and will, he would ftarve before he learned how 
to perform it. 

Here inftincl comes in to his aid. He needs 
do no more than will to fwallow. All the re- 
quifite motions of nerves and mufcles immedi- 
ately take place in their proper order, without 
his knowing or willing any thing about them. 

If we afk here, whofe will do thefe nerves and 
mufcles obey ? Not his, furely, to whom they 
belong. He knows neither their names, nor na- 
ture, nor office ; he never thought of them. 
They are moved by fome impulfe, of which the 
caufe is unknown, without any thought, will or 
intention on his part, that is, they are moved in- 

This is the cafe, in fome degree, in every vo- 
luntary motion of our body. Thus, I will to 
ftretch out my arm. The effect immediately 
follows. But we know that the arm is ftretched 
out by the contraction of certain mufcles ; and 
that the mufcles are contracted by the influence 
• of the nerves. I know nothing, I think nothing, 
either of nerves or mufcles, when I ftretch out 
my arm ; yet this nervous influence, and this 
contraction of the mufcles, uncalled by me, im- 
mediately produce the effect which I willed. 
This is, as if a weight were to be raifed, which 
: can be raifed only by a complication of levers, 
'• pullies, and other mechanical powers, that are 
behind the curtain, and altogether unknown to 
me. I will to raife the weight ; and no fooner is 




this volition exerted, than the machinery behind 
the curtain falls to work and raifes the weight. 

If fuch a cafe fhould happen, we would con- 
clude, that there is fome perfon behind the cur- 
tain, who knew my will, and put the machine 
in motion to execute it. 

The cafe of my willing to ftretch out my arm, 
or to f wallow my food, has evidently a great* 
limilarity to this. But who it is that Hands be- 
hind the curtain, and fets the internal machinery 
agoing, is hid from us ; fo llrangely and wonder- 
fully are we made. This, however, is evident, 
that thofe internal motions are not willed nor in- 
tended by us, and therefore are inftinctive. 

Kfecond cafe in which we have need of in- 
ftinct, even in advanced life, is, When the action 
muft be fo frequently repeated, that to intend 
and will it every time it is done, would occupy 
too much of our thought, and leave no room for 
other necemiry employments of the mind. 

We muft breathe often every minute whether 
awake or afleep. We muft often clofe the eye- 
lids, in order to preferve the luftre of the eye. 
If thefe things required particular attention and 
volition every time they are done, they would 
occupy all our thought. Nature therefore gives 
an impulfe to do them as often as is neceffary, 
without any thought at all. They confume no 
time, they give not the leaft interruption to any 
exercife of the mind \ becauie they are done by 

I 4 A 

1^6 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2. 

A t^'-rd cafe, in whieh we need the aid of in- 
ftindt, is, When the a&ion mull be done fo fud- 
denly, that there is no time to ttiink and deter- 
mine. When a man lofes his balance, either on 
foot or on horfeback, he makes an inftantaneous 
effort to recover it by inftincf. The effort would 
be in vain, if it waited the determination of 
reaibn and will. 

"When any thing threatens our eyes, we wink 
hard, by inftind, and can hardly avoid doing fo, 
even when we know that the ftroke is aimed in 
jeft, and that .we are perfectly fafe from danger. 
I have feen this tried upon a wager, which a 
man was to gain if he could keep his eyes open, 
while another aimed a ftroke at them in jeft. 
The difficulty of doing this . flievvs that there 
may be a itruggle between inftincl: and will ; and 
that it is not eafy to refill the impulfe of inftincl:, 
even by a ftrong refolution not yield to it. 

Thus the merciful Author of our nature, hath 
adapted our inftincls to the defects, and to the 
weaknefs of our underftanding. In infancy we 
are ignorant of every thing ; yet many things 
muft be done by us for our prefervation : Thefe 
are done by inftincl. When we grow up there 
are many motions of our limbs and bodies ne- 
ceffary, which can be performed only by a curi- 
ous and complex internal machinery ; a machi- 
nery of which the bulk of mankind are totally 
ignorant, and which the mod fkilful anatomift 
knows but imperfecily. All this machinery is 



fet agoing by inftinct. We need only to will 
the external motion, and all the internal motions, 
previoufly neceifary to the effecT:, take place of 
themfelves, without our will or command. 

Some actions mult be fo often repeated, through 
the whole of life, that, if they required atten- 
tion and will, we mould be able to do nothing 
elfe : Thefe go on regularly by inftincl. 

Our prefervation from danger often requires 
fuch fudden exertions, that there is no time to 
think and to determine : Accordingly we make 
fuch exertions by inftinct. 

Another thing in the nature of man, which I 
take to be partly, though not wholly, inftinctive„ 
is his pronenefs to imitation. 

Aristotle obferved, long ago, that man is an 
imitative animal. He is fo in more refpects than 
one. He is difpofed to imitate what he ap- 
proves. In all arts men learn more, and more 
agreeably, by example than by rules. Imitation 
by the chiffel, by the pencil, by defcription 
profaic and poetical, and by action and gefture, 
have been favourite and elegant entertainments 
of the whole fpecies. In all thefe cafes, how- 
ever, the imitation is intended and willed, and 
therefore cannot be faid to be inftinctive. 

But, I apprehend, that human nature difpofes 
us to the imitation of thofe among whom we 
live, when we neither defire nor will it. 

Let an Englishman, of middle age, take up his 
refidence in Edinburgh or Glafgow \ although. 



he has not the leaft intention to ufe the Scots 
dialect, but a firm reiblution to preferve his own 
pure and unmixed, he will find it very difficult 
to make good his intention. He will, in a courfe 
of years, fall infenfibly, and without intention, 
into the tone and accent, and even into the words 
and phrafes of thoie he converfes with ; and no- 
thing can preferve him from this, but a ftrong 
difguft to every Scoticifm, which perhaps may 
overcome the natural inftinct. 

It is commonly thought that children often 
learn to Hammer by imitation ; yet I believe no 
perfon ever defired or willed to learn that quality. 

I apprehend that inftinctive imitation has no 
fmall influence in forming the peculiarities of 
provincial dialects, the peculiarities of voice, gef- 
ture, and manner, which we fee in fome families, 
the manners peculiar to different ranks, and dif- 
ferent profeffions ; and perhaps even in forming- 
national characters, and the human character in 

The inftances that hiftory furnifhes of wild 
men, brought up from early years, without the 
fociety of any of their own fpecies are fo few 
that we cannot build conclufions upon them with 
great certainty. But all I have heard of agreed 
in this, that the wild man gave but very flender 
indications of the rational faculties \ and, with 
regard to his mind, was hardly diltinguifhable 
from the more fagacious.of the brutes. 



There is a considerable part of the loweft rank 
in every nation, of whom it cannot be faid that 
any pains have been taken by themfelves, or by 
others, to cultivate their underftaiiding, or to 
form their manners ; yet we fee an immenfe dif- 
ference between them and the wild man. 

This difference is wholly the effect of fociety ; 
and, I think, it is in a great meafure, though not 
wholly, the effecl: of undefigned and inftinctive 

Perhaps, not only our actions, but even our 
judgment, and belief, is, in fome cafes, guided by 
inftinct, that is, by a natural and blind impulfe. 

When we conlider man as a rational creature, 
it may feem right that he mould have no belief 
but what is grounded upon evidence, probable or 
demonftrative ; and it is, I think, commonly ta- 
ken for granted, that it is always evidence, real 
or apparent, that determines our belief. 

If this be fo, the confequence is, That, in no 
cafe, can there be any belief, till we find evi- 
dence, or, at leaft, what to our judgment appears 
to be evidence. I fufpecf it is not fo ; but that, 
on the contrary, before we grow up to the full 
ufe of our rational faculties, we do believe, and 
mint believe, many things without any evidence 
at all. 

The faculties which we have in common with 
brute-animals, are of earlier growth than reafon. 
We are irrational animals for a confiderable time 
before we can properly be called rational. The 



operations of reafon fpring up by imperceptible 
degrees ; nor is it poffible for us to trace accu- 
rately the order in which they rife. The power 
of reflection, by which only we could trace the 
progrefs of our growing faculties, comes too late 
to anfvver that end. Some operations of brute- 
animals look fo like reafon, that they are not 
eafily diftinguifhed from it. Whether brutes 
have any thing that can properly be called be- 
lief, I cannot fay ; but their actions fhew fome- 
thing that looks very like it. 

If there be any inftinclive belief in man, it is 
probably of the fame kind with that which we a- 
fcribe to brutes, and may be fpecifically different 
from that rational belief which is grounded on 
evidence ; but that there is fomething in man 
which we call belief, which is not grounded on 
evidence, I think, muft be granted. 

We need to be informed of many things be- 
fore we are capable of difcerning the evidence 
on which they reft. Were our belief to be with- 
held till we are capable, in any degree, of weigh- 
ing evidence, we mould lofe all the benefit of 
that inftru&ion and information, without which 
we could never attain the ufe of our rational fa- 

Man would never acquire the ufe of reafon if 
he were not brought up in the fociety of reafon- 
able creatures. The benefit he receives from 
fociety, is derived partly from imitation of what 
he fees others do, partly from the initruction 



and information they communicate to him, with- 
out which he could neither be preferved from 
deflruction, nor acquire the ufe of his rational 

Children have a thoufand things to learn, and 
they learn many things every day ; more than 
will be eafily believed by thole who have never 
given attention to their progrefs. 

Oportet difcentem credere is a common adage. 
Children have every thing to learn; and, in or- 
der to learn, they muft believe their inftruclors. 
They need a greater (lock of faith from infancy 
to twelve or fourteen, than ever after. But how 
fhall they get this flock fo necefTary to them? If 
their faith depend upon evidence, the flock of 
evidence, real or apparent, muft bear proportion 
to their faith. But fuch, in reality, is their fitu- 
ation, that when their faith muft be greatefl, the 
evidence is leafl. They believe a thoufand things 
before they ever fpend a thought upon evidence. 
Nature fupplies the want of evidence, and gives 
them an inflinclive kind of faith without evi- 

They believe implicitly whatever they are told, 
and receive with affurance the testimony of eve- 
ry one, without ever thinking of a reafon why 
they fhould do fo. 

A parent or a mafter might command them to 
believe ; but in vain ; for belief is not in our 
power ; bu in the firft part of life, it is governed 
by mere teltimony in matters of fad, and by mere 


*4 2 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2. 

authority in all other matters, no lefs than by evi- 
dence in riper years. 

It is not the words of the teftifier, but his be- 
lief, that produces this belief in a child : For 
children foon learn to diftinguifh what is faid in 
jeft, from what is faid in good earneft. What 
appears to them to be faid in jeft, produces no 
belief. They glory in fhewing that they are not 
to be impofed on. When the figns of belief in 
the fpeaker are ambiguous, it is pleafant to ob- 
ferve with what fagacity they pry into his fea- 
tures, to difcern whether he really believes what 
he fays, or only counterfits belief. As foon as 
this point is determined, their belief is regulated 
by his. If he be doubtful, they are doubtful, if 
he be allured, they are alfo allured. 

It is well known what a deep impreffion re- 
ligious principles, zealoufly inculcated, make up- 
on the minds of children. The abfurdities of 
ghofts and hobgoblins early impreffed, have been 
kn wn to flick fo faft, even in enlightened minds, 
as to baffle all rational conviction. 

When we grow up to the ufe of reafon, tefti- 
mony attended with certain circumftances, or 
even authority, may afford a rational ground of 
belief; but with children, without any regard 
to circumftances, either of them operates like 
demonftration. And as they feek no reafon, nor 
can give any reafon, for this regard to teftimony 
and to authority, it is the effect of a natural im- 
pulfe, and may be called inftind:. 



Another inftance of belief which appears to be 
inftinctive, is that which children fhew even in 
infancy, that an event which they have obferved 
in certain circum fiances, will happen again in 
like circumftances. A child of half a year old, 
who has once burned his finger by putting it in 
the candle, will not put it there again. And if 
you make a fhew of putting it in the candle by 
force, you fee the molt manifeft fings that he be 
lieves he fhall meet with the fame calamity. 

Mr Hume hath ihewn very clearly, that this 
belief is not the effect either of reafon or ex- 
perience. He endeavours to account for it by 
the affociation of ideas. Though I am not fatif- 
fied with his account of this phenomenon, I fhall 
not now examine it ; becauie it is fufficient for 
the prefent argument, that this belief is not 
grounded on evidence, real or apparent, which I 
think he clearly proves. 

A perfon who has lived fo long in the world, 
as to obferve that Nature is governed by fixed 
laws, may have fome rational ground to expect 
fimilar events in fimilar circumftances ; but this 
cannot be the cafe of the child. His belief there- 
fore is not grounded on evidence. It is the re- 
mit of his conftitution. 

Nor is it the lefs fo, though it mould arife from 
the affociation of ideas. For what is called the 
affociation of ideas is a law of Nature in our con- 
ftitution ; which produces its effects without any 


144 ESSAY in. [chap. 3. 

operation of reafon on our part, and in a manner 
of which we are entirely ignorant. 


Of Habit. 

HABIT differs from inftinct, not in its na- 
ture, but in its origin ; the latter being 
natural, the former acquired. Both operate with- 
out will or intention, without thought, and there- 
fore may be called mechanical principles. 

Habit is commonly denned, A facility of doing 
a thing, acquired by having done it frequently. 
This definition is fufficient for habits of art ; but 
the habits which may, with propriety, be called 
principles of action, mult give more than a faci- 
lity, they muft give an inclination or impulfe to 
do the action ; and that, in many cafes, habits 
have this force, cannot be doubted. 

How many aukward habits, by frequenting 
improper company, are children apt to learn, in 
their addrefs, motion, looks, geflure and pro- 
nunciation. They acquire fuch habits common- 
ly from an undefigned and inftinctive imitation, 
before they can judge of what is proper and be- 

When they are a little advanced in underfland- 
ing, they may eafily be convinced that fuch a 
thing is unbecoming, they may refolve to forbear 
it, but when the habit is formed, fuch a gene- 

OF HAEIT. 145 

ral refolution is not of itfelf diffident ; for the 
habit will operate without intention ; and parti- 
cular attention is neceffary, on every occafion, to 
xefift its impulfe, until it be undone by the ha- 
bit of oppoling it. 

It is owing to the force of habits, early ac- 
quired by imitation, that a man who has grown 
up to manhood in the lowed rank of life, if for- 
tune raife him to a higher rank, very rarely ac- 
quires the air and manners of a gentleman. 

When to that inftinctive imitation, which I. 
fpoke of before, we join the force of habit, it is 
eafy to fee, that thefe mechanical principles have 
no fmall fhare in forming the manners and cha- 
racter of moil men. 

The difficulty of overcoming vicious habits 
has, in all ages, been a common topic of theo- 
logians and moralifts ; and we fee too many fad 
examples to permit us to doubt of it. 

There are good habits, in a moral fenfe, as 
well as bad ; and it is certain, that the flatcd and 
regular performance x)f what we approve, not 
only makes it eafy, but makes us uneafy in the 
omiffion of it. This is the cafe, even when the 
action derives all its goodnefs from the opinion 
of the performer. A good illiterate Roman Ca- 
tholic does not fleep found if he goes to bed 
without telling his beads, and repeating prayers 
which he does not underftand. 1 

Arjstotle makes wifdom, prudence, good 
fenfe, fcience and art, as well as the moral vir- 

Vol, III, K tues 

isfi ESSAY III. [CHAP. 3, 

tues and vices, to be habits. If he meant no 
more, by giving this name to all thofe intellec- 
tual and moral qualities, than that they are all 
ftrengthened and confirmed by repeated a&s, 
this is undoubtedly true. I take the word in a 
lefs extenfive fenfe, when I confider habits as 
principles of action. I conceive it to be a part 
of our conftitution, that what we have been ac- 
cuitomed to do, we acquire, not only a facility, 
but a pronenefs to do on like occaiions ; fo that 
it requires a particular will and effort to forbear 
it, but to do it, requires very often no will at all. 
We are carried by habit as by a flream in fwim- 
ming, if we make no refiftance. 

Every art furnimes examples both of the power 
of habits and of their utility ; no one more than 
the moll common of all arts, the art of fpeaking, 

Articulate language is fpoken, not by nature, 
but by art. It is no eafy matter to children, to 
learn the fimple founds of language ; I mean, to 
learn to pronounce the vowels and confonants. 
It would be much more difficult, if they were 
not led by inftinct to imitate the founds they 
hear ; for the difficulty is vaftly greater of teach- 
ing the deaf to pronounce the letters and words, 
though experience fhows that it can be done. 

What is it that makes this pronunciation fe 
eafy at laft which was fo difficult at firfl ? It is 

But from what caufe does it happen, that a 
good fpeaker no fooner conceives what he would. 



<exprefs, than the letters, fyllables and words ar- 
range themfelves according to innumerable rules 
of fpeech, while he never thinks of thefe rules ? 
He means to exprefs certain fentiments ; in or- 
der to do this properly, a felection muft be made 
of the materials, out of many thoufands. He 
makes this felection without any expence of time 
or thought. The materials felecled muit be ar- 
ranged in a particular order, according to in- 
numerable rules of grammar, logic and rhetoric, 
and accompanied with a particular tone and em- 
phafis. He does all this as it were by inspira- 
tion, without thinking of any of thefe rules, and 
without breaking one of them. 

This art, if it were not more common, would 
appear more wonderful, than that a man mould 
dance blind-fold amidfl a thoufand burning 
plough-fhares, without being burnt ; yet all this 
may be done by habit. 

It appears evident, that as, without inftincl, the 
infant could not live to become a man, fo, with- 
out habit, man would remain an infant through 
life, and would be as helplefs, as unhandy, as 
fpeechlefs, and as much a child in underftanding 
at threefcore as at three. 

I fee no reafon to think, that we mall ever be 
able to affign the phyfical caufe, either of in- 
ftincl, or of the power of habit. 

Both feem to be parts of our original confti* 
tution. Their end and ufe is evident ; but we 
can affign no caufe of them, but the will of him 
who made us. 

E z T Vitlj 

148 ESSAY m. [CHAP. 3, 

With regard to inftinct, which is a natural 
propenfity, this will perhaps be eafily granted ; 
but it is no lefs true with regard to that power 
and inclination which we acquire by habit. 

No man can fhew a reafon why our doing 
a thing frequently mould produce either facility 
or inclination to do it. 

The fact is fo notorious, and fo conftantly in 
our eye, that we are apt to think no reafon mould 
be fought for it, any more than why the fun 
mines. But there mull be a caufe of the fun's 
mining, and there mull be a caufe of the power 
of habit. 

We fee nothing analogous to it in inanimate 
matter, or in things made by human art. A 
clock or a- watch, a waggon or a plough, by the 
cuftom of going, does not learn to go better, or 
require lefs moving force. The earth does notin- 
creafe in fertility by the cuftom of bearing crops. 

It is faid, that trees and other vegetables, by 
growing long in an unkindly foil or climate, 
iometimes acquire qualities by which they can 
bear its inclemency with lefs hurt. This, in the 
vegetable kingdom, hasfome refemblance to the 
power of habit ; but, in inanimate matter, I 
know nothing that refembles it. 

A Hone lofes nothing of its weight by being 
long fupported, or made to move upward. A 
body by being tolfed about ever fo long, or ever 
fo violently, lofes nothing of its inertia, nor ac- 
quires the leaf! difpofition- to change its (late. 

E S S A T 


Of Animal Principles of A5lion* 


Of Appetites. 

HAVING difcourfed of the mechanical prin- 
ciples of action, I proceed to confider 
thofe I called animal. 

They are fuch as operate upon the will and in- 
tention, but do not fuppofe any exercife of judg- 
ment or reafon ; and are moft of them to be found 
in fome brute-animals, as well as in man. 

In this clafs, the fir ft kind I fhall call appetites.? 
taking that word in a ftricter fenfe than it is fome- 
times taken, even by good writers. 

The word appetite is fometimes limited, fo as 
to fignify only the defire of food when we hun- 
ger ; fometimes it is extended fo as to fignify any 
ftrong defire, whatever be its object. Without 
pretending to cenfure any ufe of the word which 
cuftom hath authorifed, I beg leave to limit it to 
a particular clafs of defires, which are diftin- 
guifhed from all others by the following marks. 

Firfl, Every appetite is accompanied with an 
uneafy fenfation proper to it, which i? ftrong or 

K 3 weak 


weak, in proportion to the delire we have of the 
object. Secondly, Appetites are not conftant, but 
periodical, being fated by their objects for a time, 
and returning after certain periods. Such is the 
nature of thofe principles of action, to which I 
beg leave, in this Effay, to appropriate the name 
of appetites. Thofe that are chiefly obfervable 
in man, as well as in moli other animals, ara 
hunger, thirlt, and lull. 

If we attend to the appetite of hunger, we 
fhall find in it two ingredients, an uneafy fenfa- 
tion and a delire to eat. The defire keeps pace 
with the fenfation, and ceafes when it ceafes. 
When a man is fated with eating, both the un- 
eafy fenfation and the defire to eat ceafe for a 
time, and return after a certain interval. So it 
is with other appetites. 

In infants, for fome time after they come into 
the world, the uneafy fenfation of hunger is pro- 
bably the whole. We cannot fuppofe in them, 
before experience, any conception of eating, nor, 
consequently, any delire of it. They are led by 
mere infdnct to fuck when they feel the fenfa- 
tion of hunger. But when experience has con- 
nected, in their imagination, the uneafy fenfa- 
licn with the means of removing it, the defire 
of the laft comes to be fo affociated with the firft, 
that they remain through life infeparable : And 
we give the name of hunger to the principle that 
15 made im of both* 



That the appetite of hunger includes the two 
ingredients I have mentioned will not, I appre- 
hend, be queftioned. I take notice of it the 
rather becaufe we may, if I miftake not, find a 
iimilar compolition in other principles of action. 
They are made up of different ingredients, and 
may be analyzed into the parts that enter into 
their compofition. 

If one Philofopher mould maintain, that hun= 
ger is an uneafy fenfation, another, that it is a 
defire to eat, they feem to differ widely ; for a 
.defire and a fenfation are very different things, 
and have no fimilitude. But they are both in 
the right ; for hunger includes both an uneafy 
fenfation and a defire to eat. 

Although there has been no fuch difpute 
among Philofophers as we have fuppofed with 
regard to hunger, yet there have been fimilar 
difputes with regard to other principles of action ; 
and it deferves to be confidered whether they 
may not be terminated in a Iimilar manner. 

The ends for which our natural appetites are 
given, are too evident to efcape the obfervation 
of any man of the leaft reflection. Two of thofe 
I named are intended for the prefervation of the 
individual, and the third for the continuance of 
the fpecies. 

The rcafon of mankind would be altogether 
infufficient for thefe ends, without the direction 
and call of appetite. 

K 4 Though 

*5 2 ESSAY ?II. [CHAP. I, 

Though a man knew that his life muft be 
fupported by eating, reafon could not direct him 
when to eat, or what ; how much, or how 
often. In all thefe things, appetite is a much 
better guide than our reafon. Were reafon only 
to direct us in this matter, its calm voice would 
often be drowned in the hurry of bufinefs, or the 
charms of amufement. But the voice of appe- 
tite rifes gradually, and, at laft, becomes loud 
enough to call off our attention from any other 

Every man muft be convinced, that, without 
our appetites, even fuppofing mankind infpired 
with all the knowledge requifite for anfwering 
their ends, the race of men muft have perifhed 
long ago ; but, by their means, the race is con- 
tinued from one generation to another, whether 
men be lavage or civilized, knowing or ignorant, 
virtuous or vicious. 

By the fame means, every tribe of brute-ani- 
mals, from the whale that ranges the ocean to 
the leaf! microfccpic infect, has been continued 
from the beginning of the world to this day ; 
nor has good evidence been found, that any one 
fpecies which God made has perifhed. 

Nature lias given to every animal, not only 
an appetite for its food, but tafce and fmell, by 
which it diftinguifnes the food proper for it. 

It is pleafant to. fee a caterpillar, which Na- 
ture intended to live upon the leaf of one fpe- 
ic5 of plant, travel over a hundred leaves of 



other kinds without tailing one, till it comes to 
that which is its natural food, which it imme- 
diately falls on, and devours greedily. 

Moll caterpillars feed only upon the leaf of 
one fpecies of plant, and Nature fuits the feafon 
of their production to the food that is intended 
to nourifh them. Many infects and animals have 
a greater variety of food ; but, of all animals, 
man has the greateft variety, being able to fub- 
iifl upon almoft every kind of vegetable or animal 
food, from the bark of trees to the oil of whales., 

I believe our natural appetites may be made 
more violent by exceiuve indulgence, and that, 
on the other hand, they may be weakened by 
ftarving. The firft is often the effect of a per- 
nicious luxury, the laft may fometimes be the ef- 
fect of want, fometimes of fuperftition. I ap- 
prehend that Nature has given to our appetites 
that degree of ftrength which is molt proper for 
us ; and that whatever alters their natural tone, 
either in cxcefs or in defect, does not mend the 
work of Nature, but may mar and pervert it. 

A man may eat from appetite only. So the 
brutes commonly do. H' may eat to pleafe his 
tafle when he has no call of appetite. I believe 
a brute may do this alfo. He may eat for the 
fake of health, when neither appetite nor tafle 
invites. This, as far as I am able to judge, 
brutes never do. 

From fo many different principles, and from 
many more, the fame ad\jon may be done ; and 


154 ESSAY III. [CHAP. %, 

this may be faid of molt human actions. From 
this, it appears, that very different and con- 
trary theories may ferve to account for the 
actions of men. The caufes affigned may be 
fufficient to produce the effect, and yet not be 
the true caufes. 

To act merely from appetite is neither good 
nor ill in a moral view. It is neither an object 
of praife nor of blame. No man claims any 
praife becaufe he eats when he is hungry, or 
refts When he is weary. On the other hand, he 
is no object of blame, if he obeys the call of ap- 
petite when there is no reafon to hinder him. 
In this, he acts agreeably to his nature. 

From this we may ob ferve, that the definition 
of virtuous actions, given by the ancient Stoics, 
and adopted by fome modern authors, is imper- 
fect. They defined virtuous actions to be fuch 
as are according to nature. What is done ac- 
cording to the animal part of our nature, which 
is common to us with the brute-animals, is in 
itfelf neither virtuous nor vicious, but perfectly 
indifferent. Then only it becomes vicious, when 
it is done in oppofition to fome principle of fu- 
perior importance and authority. And it may 
be virtuous, if done for fome important or wor- 
thy end. 

Appetites, considered in themfelves, are nei- 
ther focial principles of action, nor felfifh. They 
cannot be called focial, becaufe they imply no 
concern for the good cf others. Nor can they 




juftly be called felfifh, though they be commonly 
referred to that clafs. An appetite draws us to 
a certain object, without regard to its being good 
for us, or ill. There is no felf-love implied in 
it any more than benevolence. We fee, that, 
in many cafes, appetite may lead a man to what 
he knows will be to his hurt. To call this act- 
ing from felf-love, is to pervert the meaning of 
words. It is evident, that, in every cafe of this 
kind, felf-love is facrificed to appetite. 

There are fome principles of the human frame 
very like to our appetites, though they do not 
commonly get that name. 

Men are made for labour, either of body or 
mind. Yet exceffive labour hurts the powers 
of both. To prevent this hurt, Nature hath 
given to men, and other animals, an uneafy fen- 
fation, which always attends exceffive labour, 
and which we call fatigue, wearinefs, lajjitude. 
This uneafy fenfation is conjoined with the de- 
lire of reft, or intermiffion of our labour. And 
thus Nature calls us to reft when we are weary, 
jn the fame manner as to eat when we are hungry. 

In both cafes there is a defire of a certain ob- 
ject, and an uneafy fenfation accompanying that 
deiire. In both cafes the defire is fatiated by its 
object, and returns after certain intervals. In 
this only they differ, that in the appetites firft 
mentioned, the uneafy fenfation arifes at inter- 
vals without action, and leads to a certain action : 



In wearinefs, the uneafy fenfation arifes from 
action too long continued, and leads to reft. 

But Nature intended that we ihould be active, 
and we need fome principle to incite us to action,, 
when we happen not to be invited by any appe- 
tite or paflion. 

For this end, when flrength and fpirits are re- 
cruited by reft, Nature has made total inaction as 
uneafy as exceffive labour. 

We may call this the principle of aElivity. It 
is moft confpicuous in children, who cannot be 
fuppofed to know how ufeful and neceffary it is 
for their improvement to be conftantly employ- 
ed. Their conftant activity therefore appears 
not to proceed from their having fome end con- 
ftantly in view, but rather from this, that they 
defire to be always doing fomething, and feel 
uneafinefs in total inaction. 

Nor is this principle confined to childhood ; 
It has great effects in advanced life. 

When a man has neither hope, nor fear, 
nor defire, nor project, nor employment, of 
body or mind, one might be apt to think him 
the happieft mortal upon earth, having nothing 
to do but to enjoy himfelf : but we find him, in 
fact, the moft unhappy. 

He is more weary of inaction than ever he was 
of exceffive labour. He is weary of the world, 
and of his own exiftence ; and is more miferable 
than the failor wrcitling with a ftorm, or the fol- 
dier mounting a breach. 



This difmal ftate is commonly the lot of the 
man who has neither exercife of body nor em- 
ployment of mind. For the mind, like water, 
corrupts and putrifles by ftagnation, but by run- 
ning purifies and refines. 

Befides the appetites which Nature hath given 
us for ufeful and neceffary purpofes, we may 
create appetites which Nature never gave. 

The frequent ufe of things which ftimulate 
the nervous fyftem, produces a languor when 
their effect is gone off, and a defire to repeat 
them. By this means a defire of a certain object 
is created, accompanied by an uneafy fenfation. 
Both are removed for a time by the object de- 
fired ; but they return after a certain interval. 
This differs from natural appetite, only in being 
acquired by cuftom. Such are the appetite; 
which fome men acquire for the ufe of tobacco* 
for opiates, and for intoxicating liquors. 

Thefe are commonly called habits, and jufUy, 
But there are different kinds of habits, even of 
the active fort, which ought to be diftinguifhed. 
Some habits produce only a facility of doing a 
thing, without any inclination to do it. All arts 
are habits of this kind, but they cannot be called 
principles of action. Other habits produce a 
pronenefs to do an action, without thought or 
intention. Thefe we considered before as me- 
chanical principles of action. There are o- 
ther habits which produce a defire of a certain 
object, and an uneafy fenfation, till it is ob- 


tained. It is this laft kind only that I call ac- 
quired appetites. 

As it is bed to preferve our natural appetites, 
in that tone and degree of flrength which Nature 
gives them, fo we ought to beware of acquiring 
appetites which Nature never gave. They are 
always ufelefs, and very often hurtful. 

Although, as was before obferved, there be nei- 
ther virtue nor vice in acting from appetite, 
there may be much of either in the management 
of our appetites. 

When appetite is oppofed by lbme principle 
drawing a contrary way, there muft be a deter- 
mination of the will, which ihall prevail, and 
this determination may be, in a moral fenfe, 
right or w T rong. 

Appetite, even in a brute-animal, may be re- 
ftrained by a llronger principle oppofed to it. A 
dog, when he is hungry and has meat fet before 
him, may be kept from touching it by the fear of 
immediate punifhment. In this cafe his fear 
operates more ftrongly than his defire. 

Do we attribute any virtue to the dog on this 
account ? I think not. Nor mould we afenbe 
any virtue to a man in a like cafe. The animal 
is carried by the itrongeft moving force. This 
requires no exertion, no felf-government, but 
pailively to yield to the ftrongeft impulfe. This, 
I think, brutes always do ; therefore we attri- 
bute to them, neither virtue nor vice, We c'on- 



iider them as being neither objects of moral ap- 
probation, nor difapprobatiom 

But it may happen, that, when appetite draws 
one way, it may be oppofed, not by any appe- 
tite or paffion, but by fome cool principle of 
action, which has authority without any impul- 
sive force : For example, by fome intereit, which 
is too diftant to raife any paffion or emotion ; or 
by fome confideration of decency, or of duty. 

In cafes of this kind, the man is convinced that 
he ought not to yield to appetite, yet there is not 
an equal or a greater impulfe to oppofe it. There 
are circumftances, indeed, that convince the judg- 
ment, but thefe are not fufficient to determine 
the will againft a ftrong appetite, without felf- 

I apprehend that brute-animals have no power 
ofifelf-government.. From their confutation, they 
mull be led by the appetite or paffion which is 
ilrongeft for the time. 

On this account they have, in all ages, and 
among all nations, been thought incapable of be- 
tng governed by laws, though fome of them may 
be fubjeets of difcipline. 

The lame would be the condition of man, if 
he had no power £o rcftrain appetite, but by a 
ftronger contrary appetite or paffion. It would 
be to no purpofe to prefcribe laws to him for the 
government of his actions. You might as well. 
forbid the wind to blow, as forbid him to follow 



whatever happens to give the ftrongeft preferit 

Every one knows, that when appetitadraws one 
way, duty, decency, or even interefi, may draw 
the contrary way ; and that appetite may give a 
itronger impulfe than any one of thefe, or even 
all of them conjoined. Yet it is certain, that, in 
every cafe of this kind, appetite ought to yield 
to any of thefe principles when it ftands oppofed 
to them. It is in fuch cafes that felf-government 
is neceffary. 

The man who fuffers himfelf to be led by ap- 
petite to do what he knows he ought not to do, 
has an immediate and natural conviction that he 
did wrong, and might have done otherwife ; and 
therefore he condemns himfelf, and confelTes that 
he yielded to an appetite which ought to have 
been under his command. • 

Thus it appears, that though our natural ap- 
petites have in themfelves neither virtue nor vice, 
though the acting merely from appetite, when 
there is no principle of greater authority to op- 
pofe it, be a matter indifferent ; yet there may be 
a great deal of virtue or of vice in the manage- 
ment of our appetites ; and that the power of 
fdf-government is neceffary for their regulation. 




Of Defires. 

Nother. clafs of animal principles of ac- 
tion in man, I mall, for want of a better 
fpecific name, call defires. 

They are diftinguifhed from appetites by this : 
That there is not an uneafy fenfation proper to 
each, and always accompanying it ; and that they 
are not periodical, but conftant, not being fated 
with their obje£ts for a time, as appetites are. 

The defires I have in view, are chiefly thefe 
three, the defire of power, the defire of efteem^ 
and the defire of knowledge. 

We may, I think, perceive fome degree of 
thefe principles in brute-animals of the more 
fagacious kind ; but in man they are much more 
confpicuous, and have a larger fphere. 

In a herd of black cattle there is a rank and 
fubordination. When a ftranger is introduced, 
into the herd, he mull fight every one till his 
rank is fettled. Then he yields to the ftronger 
and afiumes authority over the weaker. The cafe 
is much the fame in the crew of a fhip of war. 

As foon as men afibciate together, the defire 
of fuperiority difcovers itfelf. In barbarous 
tribes, as well as among the gregarious kinds or 
animals, rank is determined by ftre'ngth, courage, 
fwiftnefs, or fuch other qualities. Among ci- 
Vol. III. h vilized 

l6l ESSAY IIIv [ctfAP. 1o 

vilized nations, many things of a different kind 
give power and rank ; places in government, 
titles of honour, riches, wifdom, eloquence, vir- 
tue, and even the reputation of thefe. All thefe 
are either different fpecies of power, or means 
of acquiring it ; and when they are fought for 
that end, mufl be confidered as inftances of the 
defire of power. 

The defire of efteem is not peculiar to man. 
A dog exults in the approbation and applaufe of 
his matter, and is humbled by his difpleafure.- 
But in man this defire is much more confpicuous, 
and operates in a thoufand different ways. 

Hence it is that fo very few are proof againft 
flattery, when it is not very grofs. We wifh to 
be well in the opinion of others, and therefore 
are prone to interpret in our own favour, the 
figns of their good opinion, even when they are 

There are few injuries that are not more eafy 
to be born than contempt. 

We cannot always avoid feeing, in the' con- 
duct of others, things that move contempt; but, 
in all polite circles, the figns of it mull be fup- 
preired, otherwife men could not converfe to- 

As there is no quality > common to good and 
bad men, more efteemed than courage, nor any 
thing in a man more the object of contempt than 
eo wardice ; hence every man defires to be thought 
a man of courage \ and the reputation cf cowar- 


dice is worfe than death. How many have died 
to avoid ' being thought cowards ? How many, 
for the fame reafon, have done what made them 
unhappy to the end of their lives. 

I believe litany a tragical event, if traced to 
its fource in human nature, might be referred to 
the defire of efteem, or the dread of contempt. 

In brute-animals there is fo little that can be 
called knowledge, that the defire of it can make 
no confiderable figure in them. Yet I have feen 
a cat, when brought into a new habitation, ex- 
amine with care every corner of it, and anxious 
to know every lurking place, and the avenues to 
it. And I believe the fame thing may be ob- 
ferved in many other fpecies, efpecially in thofe 
that are liable to be hunted by man, or by other 

But the defire of knowledge in the human 
fpecies, is a principle that cannot efcape our ob- 

The curiofity of children is the principle that 
occupies moft of their time while they are awake. 
What they can handle they examine on all fides, 
and often break in pieces, in order to difcover 
what is within. 

When men grow up their curiofity. does not 
ceafe, but is employed upon other objects. No- 
velty is confidered as one great fource of the 
pleafures of tafte, and indeed is neceffary, in one 
degree or other, to give a relilh to them all. 

1/ a When 

164 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2, 

When we fpeak of the deiire of knowledge as 
a principle of action in man, we muft not con- 
fine it to the puriuits of the Philosopher, or of 
the literary man. The deiire of knowledge dif- 
covers itfelf, in one perfon, by an avidity ta 
know the fcandal of the village, and who makes 
love, and to whom ; in another, to know the 
economy of the next family ; in another, to 
know what the port brings ; and, in another, to 
trace the path of a new comet. 

When men fhew an anxiety, and take pains to 
know what is of no moment, and can be of no ufe 
to themfelves or to others, this is trifling, and vain 
curiolity. It is a culpable weaknefs and folly; 
but {till it is the wrong direction of a natural 
principle m r and fhews the force of that principle, 
more than when it is directed to matters worthy 
to be known. 

I think it unneeeflary to ufe arguments to 
mow, that the delires of power, of efteem, and 
of knowledge, are natural principles in the con- 
stitution of man. Thofe who are not convinced 
of this by reflecting upon their own feelings and 
fentiments, will not eafily be convinced by argu- 

Power, efteem and knowledge, are fo ufefui for 
many purpofes, that it is eafy to refolve the defire 
of them into other principles. Thofe who do ic 
mult maintain, that we never defire thefe objects 
for their own fakes, but as means only of procuring, 
pleafure, or Something which is a natural object 



of defire. This, indeed, was the do&rine of 
Epicurus ; and it has had its votaries in modern 
times. But it has been obferved, that men defire 
pofthumous fame, which can procure no plea- 

Epicurus himfelf, though he believed that he 
fhould have no exigence after death, was fo de- 
firous to be remembered with efteem, that, by his 
laft will, he appointed his heirs to commemorate 
his birth annually, and to give a monthly feaft 
to his difciples, upon the twentieth day of the 
moon. What pleafure could this give to Epi- 
curus when he had no exiftence ? On this ac- 
count, Cicero juftly obferves, that his doctrine 
was refuted by his own practice. 

Innumerable inftances occur in life, of men 
who facrifiee eafe, pleafure, and every thing elfe, 
to the lull of power, of fame, or even of know- 
ledge. It is abfurd to fuppofe, that men ihould 
facrifiee the end to w T hat they defire only as the 
means of promoting that end. 

The natural defires I have mentioned are, in 
themfelves, neither virtuous nor vicious. They 
are parts of our conftitution, and ought to be re- 
gulated and reftrained, when they Hand in com- 
petition with more important principles. But 
to eradicate them if it were poffible, (and I be- 
lieve it is not), would only be like cutting off a 
leg or an arm, that is, making ourfelves other 
.creatures than God has made us. 

They cannot, with propriety, be called felfifli 
L 3 principles, 

l66 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 2, 

principles, though they have commonly been ac- 
counted fuch. 

When power, is defired for its own fake, and 
not as the means in order to obtain fomething 
clfe, this defire is neither felfiih nor focial. When 
ti man defires power as the means of doing good 
to others, this is benevolence. When he defires 
it only as the means of promoting his own good, 
this is felf-love. But when he defires it for its 
own fake, this only can properly be called the 
defire of power ; and it implies neither felf-love, 
nor benevolence. The fame thing may be ap- 
plied to the defires of efteem and of knowledge. 

The wife intention of Nature in giving us 
thefe defires, is no lefs evident than in giving our 
natural appetites. 

Without the natural appetites, reafon, as was 
before obferved, would be infuflicient, either for 
the prefervation of the individual, or the conti- 
nuation of the fpecies ; and without the natu- 
ral defires we have mentioned, human virtue 
would be infufficient to influence mankind to a 
tolerable conduct in fociety. 

To thefe natural defires, common to good and 
to bad men, it is owing, that a man, who has 
little or no regard to virtue, may notwithftand- 
ing be a good member of fociety. It is true, in- 
deed, that perfect virtue, joined with perfect 
knowledge, Would make both our appetites and 
defires imneceiTary incumbrances of our nature ; 
but as human knowledge and human virtue are 



both, very imperfect, thefe appetites and defires 
.are necefiary fupplements to our imperfections. 

Society, among men could not fubfift without: 
% certain degree of that regularity of conduct 
which virtue prefcribes. To this regularity of 
conduct, men who have no virtue are induced by 
a regard to character, fometimes by a regard to 

Even in thofe who are not deftitute of virtue,, 
a regard to character is often an ufeful auxiliary 
to it, when both principles concur in their di- 

The purfuits of power, of fame, and of know- 
ledge, require felf-command no lefs than virtue 
does. In our behaviour towards our fellow- 
creatures, they generally lead to that very con- 
duct which virtue requires. I fay generally, for 
this, no doubt, admits of exceptions, efpecially in 
the cafe of ambition, or the defire of power. 

The evils which ambition has produced in the 
world are a common topic of declamation. But 
it ought to be obferved, that where it has led to 
one action hurtful to fociety, it has led to ten 
thoufand that are beneficial to it. And we juft- 
\y look upon the want of ambition as one of the 
rnoft unfavourable fymptoms in a man's temper. 

The defires of efteem and of knowledge are 
highly ufeful to fociety, as well as the defire of 
power, and, at the fame time, are lefs dangerous 
ki their exceiTes. 

L 4 Although 

i68 essay iir. [chap. 2. 

Although actions proceeding merely from the 
love of power, of reputation, or of knowledge, 
cannot be accounted virtuous, or be entitled to 
moral approbation ; yet we allow them to be 
manly, ingenuous, and fuited to the dignity of 
human nature ; and therefore they are entitled 
to a degree of eftimation, fuperior to thofe whicfc 
proceed from mere appetite. 

Alexander the Great deferved that epithet 
jn the early part of his life, when eafe and plea- 
sure, and every appetite, were Sacrificed to the 
love of glory and power. But when we view 
him conquered by oriental luxury, and ufing his 
power to gratify his paffions and appetites, he 
links in our elteem, and feems to forfeit the title 
which he had acquired. 

Sardanapalus, who is faid to have purfued 
pleafure as eagerly as Alexander purfued glory, 
never obtained from mankind the appellation of 
the Great. 

Appetite is the principle of mofl of the ac- 
tions of brutes, and we account it brutal in a man 
to employ himfelf chiefly in the gratific tion of 
his appetites. The defires of power, of elteem, 
and of knowledge, are capital parts in the con- 
ftitution of man ', and the actions proceeding 
from them, though not properly virtuous, are 
human and manly j and they claim a juft Supe- 
riority over thofe that proceed from appetite. 
This, I think, is th univerfal and unbiaffed udg- 
ment of mankind. Upon what ground this judg- 


ment is founded, may deferve to be confidered in 
its proper place. 

The defires we have mentioned are not only 
highly ufeful in fociety, and in their nature more 
noble than our appetites, they are likewife the 
moft proper engines that can be ufed in the edu- 
cation and difcipline of men. 

In training brute-animals to fuch habits as 
they are capable of, the fear of punifhment is 
the chief inftrument to be ufed. But in train- 
ing men of ingenuous difpolition, ambition to ex- 
cel, and the love of efleem, are much nobler and 
more powerful engines, by which they may be led 
to worthy conduct, and trained to good habits. 

To this we may add, that the defires we have 
mentioned are very friendly to real virtue, and 
make it more eafy to be acquired. 

A man that is not quite abandoned muft be- 
have fb in fociety as to preferve fome degree of 
reputation. This every man defires to do, and 
the greater part actually do it. In order to this, 
he muft acquire the habit of reftraining his ap- 
petites and paflions within the bounds which com- 
mon decency requires, and fo as to make him- 
felf a tolerable member of fociety, if not an 
ufeful and agreeable one. 

It cannot be doubted that many, from a re- 
gard to character and to the opinion of others, 
are led to make themfelves both ufeful and agree- 
able members of fociety, in whom a fenfe of 
duty has but a fmall influence. 


1 70 ESSAY III, [CHA?. 2, 

Thus men, living in fociety, efpecially in po~ 
lifhed fociety, are tamed and civilized by the 
principles that are common to good and bad 
men. They are taught to bring their appetites 
.and paffions under due reftraint before the eyes 
•of men, which makes it more eafy to bring them 
under the rein of virtue. 

As a horfe that is broken is more eafily ma- 
naged than an unbroken colt, fo the man who 
has undergone the difcipline of fociety is more 
tractable, and is in an excellent ftate of prepara- 
tion for the difcipline of virtue ; and that felf- 
command, which is RecefTary in the race of am- 
bition and honour, is an attainment of no fmall 
importance in the courfe of virtue. 

For this reafon, I apprehend, they err very 
grofsly who conceive the life of a hermit to be 
favourable to a .courfe of virtue. The hermit, 
no doubt, is free from fome temptations to vice, 
but he is deprived t)f many ftrong inducements 
to felf- government, as well as of every opportu- 
nity of exercifing the focial virtues. 

A very ingenious author has refolved our 
moral fentiments refpecling the virtues of felf- 
government, into a regard to the opinion. of men. 
This I think is giving a great deal too much to 
the love of efteem, and putting the fhadow of 
virtue in place of the fubftance ; but that a re- 
gard to the opinion of others is, in moft in- 
$ances of our external behaviour, a great in- 
ducement to good .condiiS, cannot be doubted. 



For, whatever men may practice themfelves ? 
they will always approve of that in others which 
they think right. 

It was before obferved, that, befides the ap- 
petites which Nature has given us, we may ac- 
quire appetites which, by indulgence, become 
as important as the natural. The fame thing 
may be applied to defires. 

One of the moll remarkable acquired defires is 
that of money, which, in commercial Itates, will 
be found in moft men, in one degree or other, 
and, in fome men, fw allows up every other de~ 
iire, appetite and paffion. 

The deiire of money can then only be ac- 
counted a principle of action, when it is defired 
for its own fake, and not merely as the means of 
procuring fomething elfe. 

It feems evident, that there is in mifers fuch a 
deiire of money ; and, I fuppofe, no man will 
fay that it is natural, or a part of our original 
jconftitution. It feems to be the effect of habit. 

In commercial nations, money is an inftrument 
by which almoft every thing may be procured 
that is defired. Being ufeful for many different: 
purpofes as the means, fome men lofe fight of 
the end, and terminate their defire upon the 
means. Money is alfo a fpecies of power, put- 
ting a man in condition to do many things 
which he could not do without it; and power is 
a natural object of defire, even when it is not 



In like manner, a man may acquire the defire 
of a title of honour, of an equipage, of an eltate. 

Although our natural defires are highly bene- 
ficial to fociety, and even aiding to virtue, yet 
acquired defires are not only ufelefs, but hurtful 
and even difgraceful. 

No man is afhamed to own, that he loves 
power, that he loves efteem, that he loves know- 
ledge, for their own fake. There may be an 
excefs in the love of thele things, which is a ble- 
mifh ; but there is a degree of it, which is na- 
tural, and is no blemifh. To love money, titles 
or equipage, on any other account than as they 
are ufeful or ornamental, is allowed by all to be 
weaknefs and folly. 

The natural defires I have been confidering, 
though they cannot be called Jocial principles of 
action in the common fenfe of that word, fince 
It is not their object to procure any good or be- 
nefit to others, yet they have fuch a relation to 
fociety, as to fhew molt evidently the intention 
of Nature to be, that man mould live in fociety. 

The defire of knowledge is not more natural 
than is the defire of communicating our know- 
ledge. Even power would be lefs valued if there 
were no opportunity of (hewing it to others. It 
derives half its value from that circumftance. 
And as to the defire of efteem, it can have no 
pofIi}}le gratification but in fociety. 

Thefe parts of our conftitution, therefore, are 
evidently intended for focial life ; and it is not 



more evident that birds were made for flying 
and fifties for fwimming, than that man, endow- 
ed with a natural defire of power, of efteem, and 
of knowledge, is made, not for the favage and 
folitary ftate, but for living in fociety. 


Of Benevolent Affection in general. 

WE have feen how, by inftincl and habit, 
a kind of mechanical principles, man, 
without any expence of thought, without deli- 
beration or will, is led to many actions, necefTary 
for his prefervation and well-being, which, with- 
out thofe principles, all his fkill and wifdom 
would not have been able to accomplifh. 

It may perhaps be thought, that his deliberate 
and voluntary actions are to be guided by his 

But it ought to be obferved, that he is a vo- 
luntary agent long before he has the ufe of rea- 
fon. Reafon and virtue, the prerogatives of man, 
are of the lateft growth. They come to matu- 
rity by flow degrees, and are too weak, in the 
greater part of the fpecies, to fecure the prefer- 
vation of individuals and of communities, and 
to produce that varied fcene of human life, in 
which they are to be exerctfed and improved. 


174 ESSAY in. [chap, 3, 

Therefore the wife Author of our being hath 
implanted in human nature many inferior prin- 
ciples of action, which, with little or no aid of 
reafon or virtue, preferve the fpecies, and pro- 
duce the various exertions, and the various 
changes and revolutions which we obferve upon 
the theatre of life. 

In this bufy fcene, reafon and virtue have ac- 
cefs to act their parts, and do often produce great 
and good effects ; but whether they interpofe or 
not, there are actors of an inferior order that will 
carry on the play, and produce a variety of 
events, good or bad. 

Reafon, if it were perfect, would lead men to 
ufe the proper means of prefer ving their own 
lives, and continuing their kind. But the Author 
of our being hath not thought fit to leave this 
tafk to reafon alone, otherwife the race would 
long ago have been extinct. He hath given us, in 
common with other animals, appetites, by which 
thofe important purpofes are fecured, whether 
men be wife or foolifh, virtuous or vicious. 

Reafon, if it were perfect, would lead men nei- 
ther to lofe the benefit of their active powers by 
inactivity, nor to overftrain them by excefiive la- 
bour. But Nature hath given a powerful aflift- 
ant to reafon, by making inactivity a grievous 
punifhment to itfelf ; and by annexing the pain 
of laliitude to excefiive labour. 

Reafon, if it were perfect, would lead us to de- 
fire power, knowledge, and the efteem and affec- 


I V 

tion of our fellow-men, as means of promoting 
our own happinefs, and of being ufeful to others., 
Here again, Nature, to fupply the defects of rea- 
fon, hath given us a ftrong natural delire of thofe 
objects, which leads us to purfue them without 
regard to their utility. 

Thefe principles we have already eonfidered : 
and, we may obferve, that all of them have things,,- 
not perfons, for their object. They neither im- 
ply any good nor ill affection towards any other 
perfon, nor even towards ourfelves. They can- 
not therefore, with propriety, be called either 
Jelfijh or facial. But there are various principles 
of action in man, which have perfons for their 
immediate object, and imply, in their very na~ 
ture, our being well or ill affected to fome per- 
fon, or, at leaft, to fome animated being. 

Such principles I fhall call by the general 
name of affections j whether they difpofe us to 
do good or hurt to others. 

Perhaps, in giving them this general name, I 
extend the meaning of the word affection beyond 
its common ufe in diicourfe. Indeed our lan- 
guage feems in this to have departed a little from 
analogy : For we ufe the verb affect, and the par- 
ticiple affected, in an indifferent fenfe, fo that, 
they may be joined either with good or ill. A 
man may be faid to be ill affected towards ano- 
ther man, or well affected. But the word affec- 
tion, which, according to analogy, ought to have 
the fame latitude of fignification with that from 



which it is derived, and therefore ought to be 
applicable to ill affections as well as to good, 
feems, by cuftom, to be limited to good affections. 
When we fpeak of having affection for any per- 
fon, it is always underltood to be a benevolent 

Malevolent principles, fuch as anger, refent- 
ment, envy, are not commonly called affections, 
but rather paffions. 

I take the reafon of this to be, that the male- 
volent affections are almoft always accompanied 
with that perturbation of mind which we pro- 
perly call paffion ; and this paffion, being the 
moft confpicuous ingredient, gives its name to 
the whole. 

Even love, when it goes beyond a certain de- 
gree, is called a paffion. But it gets not that 
name when it is fo moderate as not to difcom- 
pofe a man's mind, nor deprive him in any mea- 
fure of the government of himfelf. 

As we give the name of paffion, even to bene- 
volent affection when it is fo vehement as to dif- 
compofe the mind, fo, I think, without trefpaf- 
ling much againfl propriety of words, we may 
give the name of affection even to malevolent 
principles, when unattended with that diftur- 
bance of mind which commonly, though not al- 
ways, goes along with them, and which has made 
them get the name of paffions. 
' The principles which lead us immediately to 
defire the good of others, and thofe that lead us 



To defire their hurt, agree in this, that perfons, 
and not things, are their immediate object,. Both 
imply our being fome way affected towards the 
perfon. They ought therefore to have fome 
common name to exprefs what is common in their 
nature ; and I know no name more proper for 
this than affection. 

Taking affection therefore in this extenfive 
fenfe, our affections are very naturally divided 
into benevolent and malevolent, according as 
they imply our being well or ill affected towards 
their object. 

There are fome things common to all benevo- 
lent affections, others wherein they differ. 

They differ both in the feeling, or fenfation, 
which is an ingredient in all of them, and in the 
objects to which they are directed. 

They all agree in two things, to wit, That the 
feeling which accompanies them is agreeable ; 
and that they imply a defire of good and happi- 
nefs to their object. 

The affection we bear to a parent, to a child, 
to a benefactor, to a perfon in diftrefs, to a mi- 
ilrefs, differ not more in their object, than in the 
feelings they produce in the mind. We have 
not names to exprefs the differences of thefe feel- 
ings, but every man is confcious of a difference. 
Yet, with all this difference, they agree in being- 
agreeable feeling-. 

Vol. III. M I 


I know no exception to this rule, if we di- 
ftinguiffi, as we ought, the feeling which natu- 
rally and neceffarily attends the kind affection, 
from thofe which accidentally, in certain circum- 
ftances, it may produce. 

The parental affection is an agreeable feeling ; 
but it makes the misfortune or mifbehaviour of 
a child give a deeper wound to the mind. Pity 
is an agreeable feeling, yet diftrefs, which we 
are not able to relieve, may give a painful fym- 
pathy. Love to one of the other fex is an agree- 
able feeling ; but where it does not meet with 
a proper return, it may give the moft pungent 

The joy and comfort of human life confifts in 
the reciprocal exereife of kind affections, and 
without them life would be undefirable. 

It has been obferved by Lord Shaftesbury, 
and by many other judicious moralifts, That 
even the epicure and the debauchee, who are 
thought to place all their happinefs in the grati- 
fications of fenfe, and to purfue thefe as their on- 
ly object, can find no relifli in folitary indulges 
ces of this kind, but in thofe only that are mixed 
with focial intercourfe, and a reciprocal ex- 
change of kind affections. 

Cicero has obferved, that the word convivium, 
which in Latin fignifies a feaft, is not borrowed 
from eating or from drinking, but from that fo- 
cial intercourfe which, being the chief part of 



aiich an entertainment, gives the name to the 

Mutual kind affections are undoubtedly the 
balm of lirfe, and of all the enjoyments common 
to good and bad men, are the chief. If a man 
had no perfon whom he loved or efteemed, no 
perfon who loved or efteemed him, how wretch- 
ed muft his condition be ! Surely a man capable 
of reflection would choofe to pafs out of exift- 
ence, rather than to live in fuch a flate. 

It has been, by the Poets, reprefented as the. 
ftate of fome bloody and barbarous tyrants ; but 
Poets are allowed to paint a little beyond the 
life. Atreus is reprefented as faying, Oderint 
dum metuunt. " I care not for their hatred, pro- 
" viding they dread my power." I believe there 
never was a man fo diipofed towards all man- 
kind. The moft odious tyrant that ever was, 
will have his favourites, whofe affection he en- 
deavours to deierve or to bribe, and to whom he 
'bears fome good will. 

We may therefore lay it down as a principle, 
ihat all benevolent affections are, in their nature, 
agreeable ; and that, next to a good conference, 
lo which they are always friendly, and never can 
be adverfe, they make the capital part of human 

Another ingredient effential to every benevo- 
lent affection, and from which it takes the name, 
is a defire of the good and happinefs of the ob- 

M 2 The 

i8o ESSAY in. [chap. 3, 

The object of benevolent affection therefore, 
Stuft be fome being capable of happinefs. When 
we fpeak of affection to a houfe, or to any inani- 
mate thing, the word has a 4iff erent meaning. 
For that which has no capacity of enjoyment, or 
of fuffering r maybe an object of liking or difguft, 
but cannot pofllbly be an object either of bene- 
volent or malevolent affection. 

A thing may be defired either on its own ac- 
count, or as the means in order to fomething elfe. 
That only can properly be called an object of 
defire, which is defired upon its own account \ 
and it is only fuch delires that I call principles of 
action. When any thing is defired as the means 
only, there muff be an end for which it is de- 
fired ; and the deiire of the end is, in this cafe, 
the principle of action. The means are defired 
only as they tend to that end ; and if different,, 
or even contrary means tended to the fame end* 
they would be equally defired. 

On this account I coniider thofe affections on 
Iv as benevolent, where the good of the object is 
defired ultimately, and not as the means only, in, 
order to fomething elfe. 

To fay that we defire the good of others, only 
in order to procure fome pleafure or good to our- 
ielves, is tc fay that there is no benevolent affec- 
tion in human nature. 

This indeed has been the opinion of fome Phi- 
lofophers, both in ancient and in later times. I 
Intend not to examine this opinion in this place, 



conceiving it proper to give that view of the prin- 
ciples of act-ion in man, which appears to me to 
be juft, before I examine the fyftems wherein 
they have been miflaken or mifreprefented. 

I obferve only at prefent, that it appears as iift- 
reafonable to refolve all our benevolent affections 
into felf-love, as it would be to refolve hunger 
and thirft into felf-love. 

Thefe appetites are neceiTary for the prefcrva- 
tion of the individual. Benevolent affections are 
no lefs neceffary for the prefervation of fociety 
among men, without which man would become 
an eafy prey to the beafts of the field. 

We are placed in this world, by the Author 
of our being, furrounded with many objects that 
are neceffary or ufeful to us, and with many that 
may hurt us. We are led, not by reafon and 
felf-love only, but by many inftincls, and appe- 
tites, and natural defires, to leek the former and 
to avoid the latter. 

But of all the things of this world, man may 
be the mofl ufeful, or the moil hurtful to man. 
Every man is m the power of every man with 
whom he lives. Every man has power to do 
much good to his fellow-men, and to do more 

We cannot live without the fociety of men ; 
and it would be impoffible to live in fociety, if 
men were not difpofed to do much of that good 
to men, and but little of that hurt, which it is 
in their power to do. 

M ^ But. 

l82 ESSAY III. [CHAP. J-o. 

But how fhall this end, fo neceftary to the ex- 
iftence of human fociety, and confequently to 
the exiftence of the human fpecies, be accom- 
pliihed ? 

If we judge from analogy, we muft conclude, 
that in this, as in other parts of our conduit, our 
rational principles are aided by principles of an 
inferior order, fimilar to thofe by which many 
brute- animals live in fociety with their fpecies j 
and that by means of fuch principles, that de- 
gree of regularity is obferved, which we find in 
all focieties of men, whether wife or foolifh, vir- 
tuous or vicious. 

The benevolent affections planted in human: 
nature, appear therefore no lefs neceffary for the 
prefervation of the human fpecies, than the ap- 
petites of hunger and thirft, 


Of the particular Benevolent Affeclions* 

Aving premifed thefe things in general 
concerning benevolent affections, I fhall- 
now attempt fome enumeration of them. 

1. The firft I mention is that of parents and 
children, and other near relations. 

This we commonly call natural affection. Eve- 
ry language has a name for it. It is common to 
us with molt of the brute-animals ;, and is va- 




rioufly modified in different animals, according 
as it is more or lefs neceffary for the preferva- 
tio.n of the fpecies. 

Many of the infect-tribe need no other care 
of parents, than that the eggs be laid in a pro- 
per place, where they fhall have neither too little 
nor too much heat, and where the animal, as 
^oon as it is hatched, fhall find its natural food. 
This care the parent takes, and no more. 

In other tribes, the young muft be lodged in 
fome fecret place, where they cannot be eafily 
difcovered by their enemies. They muft be 
cherifhed by the warmth of the parent's body. 
They muft be fuckled, and fed at firft with ten- 
der food ; attended in their excurfions, and 
guarded from danger, till they have learned 
by experience, and by the example of their 
parents, to provide for their own fubfiftence and 
fafety. With what affiduity and tender affec- 
tion this is done by the parents, in every fpecies 
that requires it, is w T ell known. 

The eggs of the feathered tribe are commonly 
hatched by incubation of the dam, who leaves 
off at once her fprightly motions and migrations, 
and confines herfelf to her folitary and painful 
tafk, cheered by the fong of her mate upon a 
neighbouring bough, and fometimes fed by him, 
fometimes relieved in her incubation, while fhe 
gathers a fcanty meal, and with the greateft dif- 
patch returns to her poft. 

M 4 The 

184 essay ur. [chap. 4, 

The young birds of many fpecies are fo ver^ 
tender and delicate, that man, with all his wif- 
dom and experience, would hot be able to rear 
one to maturity. But the parents, without any 
experience, know perfectly how to rear fome- 
times a do2,en or more at one brood, and to give 
every one its portion in due feafon. They know 
the food beft fuited to their delicate conftitution, 
which is fometimes afforded by Nature, fome- 
times mull be cooked and half digefted in the 
ftomaeh of the parent. 

In fome animals, Nature hath furnifhed the 
female with a kind of fecond womb, into which 
the young retire occafionally, for food, warmth, 
and the conveniency of being carried about with 
the mother. 

It would be en'dlefs to recount all the various 
ways in which the parental affection is expreffed 
by brute- animals. 

He muft, in my apprehenfion, have a very 
it range complexion of underflanding, who caii 
iurvey the various ways in which the young of 
the various fpecies are reared,, without wonder, 
without pious admiration of that manifold Wif- 
dom, which hath fo fkilfull'y fitted means to ends, 
in fuch an infinite variety of ways. 

In all the brute-animals we are acquainted 
with, the end of the parental affection is com- 
pletely anfwered in a fhort time ;, and then it 
ceafes as if it had never been, 



The infancy of man is longer and more help- 
lefs than that of any other animal. The paren- 
tal affection is necelfary for many years ; it is 
highly ufeful through life ; and therefore it ter- 
minates only with life. It extends to children's 
children without any diminution of its force. 

How common is it to fee a young woman, m 
the gayeft period of life, who has fpent her days 
in mirth, and her nights in profound fleep, with- 
out folicitude or care, all at once transformed 
into the careful, the folicitous, the watchful 
nurfe of her dear infant : doing nothing by day 
but gazing upon it, and ferving it in the meaneir 
offices ; by night, depriving herfclf of found 
fleep for months, that it may lie fafe in her arms: 
Forgetful of herfelf, her whole care is centered 
in this little object. 

Such a fudden transformation of her whole, 
habits, and occupation, and turn of mind, if we 
did not fee it every day, would appear a more 
wonderful metamorphojis than any that Ovid has 

This, however, is the work of Nature, and not 
the effect of reafon and reflection. For we fee 
it in the good and in the bad, in the moil 
thoughtlefs, as well as in the thoughtful. 

Nature has affigned different departments to 
the father and mother in rearing their offspring. 
This may be feen in many brute-animals ; and 
that it is fo in the human fpecies, was Ion? ao-o 
obferved by Socrates, and awft beautifully il- 

l86 ESSAY in. [chap. 4. 

luftrated by him, as we learn from Xenophon's 
Oeconomicks. The parental affection in the dif- 
ferent fexes is exactly adapted to the office af- 
iigned to each. The father would make an auk- 
ward nurfe to a new-born child, and the mother 
too indulgent a guardian. But both act with 
propriety and grace in their proper fphere. 

It is very remarkable, that when the office of 
rearing a child is transferred from the parent to 
another perfon, Nature feems to transfer the af- 
fection along with the office. A wet nurfe, or 
even a dry nurfe, has commonly the fame affec- 
tion for her nurfling, as if flie had born it. The 
fact is fo well known that nothing needs be faid 
to confirm it \ and it feems to be the work of 

Our affections are not immediately in our 
power, as our outward actions are. Nature has 
directed them to certain objects. We may do 
kind offices without affection ; but we cannot 
create an affection which Nature has not given, 

Reafon might teach a man that his children 
are particularly committed to his care by the 
providence of God, and, on that account, that 
he ought to attend to them as his particular 
charge ; but reafon could not teach him to 
love them more than other children of equal 
merit, or to be more afflicted for their misfor- 
tunes or milbehaviour. 

It is evident, therefore, that that peculiar fen- 
fibility of affection, with regard to his own chil- 


dren, is not the effect of reafoning or reflection, 
but the effect of that confutation which Nature 
has given him. 

There are fome affections which we may call 
rational, becaufe they are grounded upon an opi- 
nion of merit in the object. The parental affec- 
tion is not of this kind. For though a man's af- 
fection to his child may be increafed by merit, 
and diminifhed by demerit, I think no man will 
fay, that it took its rife from an opinion of me- 
rit. It is not opinion that creates the affections, 
but affection often creates opinion. It is apt to 
pervert the judgment, and create an opinion of 
merit where there is none. 

The abfoiute neceflity of this parental affec- 
tion, in order to the continuance of the human 
fpecies, is fo apparent, that there is no need of 
arguments to prove it. The rearing of a child 
from its birth to maturity requires fo much time 
and care, and fuch infinite attentions, that, if it. 
were to be done merely from confiderations of 
reafon and duty, and were not fweetened by- 
affection in parents, nurfes and guardians, there 
is reafon to doubt, whether one child in ten thou- 
fand would ever be reared. 

Eefide the abfoiute neceffity of this part of the 
human confutation to the prefervation of the 
fpecies, its utility is very great, for tempering 
the giddinefs and impetuofity of youth, and im- 
proving its knowledge by the prudence and ex- 

l88 ESSAY in. [chap. 4, 

perience of age, for encouraging induftry and 
frugality in the parents, in order to provide for 
their children, for the folace and fupport of pa- 
rents under the infirmities of old age ; not to 
mention that it probably gave rife to the firft ci- 
vil governments. 

It does not appear that the parental, and other 
family affections, are, in general, either too flrong 
or too weak for anfvvering their end. If they 
were too weak, parents would be moft apt to err 
on the fide of undue feverity ; if too ftrong, of 
undue indulgence. As they are in fact, I believe 
no man can fay, that the errors are more general 
on on fide than on the other. 

When thefe affections are exerted according to 
their intention, under the direction of wifdom and 
prudence, the economyof fuch a family is a moft 
delightful fpectacle, and furnifhes the moft agree- 
able and affecting fubject to the pencil of the 
painter, and to the pen of the orator and poet. 

i. The next benevolent affection I mention is 
gratitude to benefactors. 

That good offices are, by the very conftitution 
of our nature, apt to produce good-will towards 
the benefactor, in good and bad men, in the fa- 
vage and in the civilized, cannot furely be de- 
nied by any one, in the leaft acquainted with hu- 
man nature. 

The danger of perverting a man's judgment 
by good deeds, where he ought to have no bias, 
is fo well known, that it is difhonourable in 



judges, in witnefles, in electors to offices of trull, 
to accept of them ; and, in all civilized nations, 
they are, in fuch cafes, prohibited, as the means 
of corruption. 

Thofe who would corrupt the fentence of a 
judge, the teftimony of a witnefs, or the vote of 
an elector, know well, that they mull not make 
a bargain, or ftipulate what is to be done in re- 
turn. This would ihock every man who has the 
leaft pretention to morals. If the perfon can on- 
ly be prevailed upon to accept the good office, as 
a teftimony of pure and difinterefted friendfhip, 
it is left to work upon his gratitude. He finds 
himfelf under a kind of moral obligation to con- 
lider the caufe of his benefactor and friend in 
the moll favourable light. He finds it ealier to 
jullify his conduct to himfelf, by favouring the 
intereft of his benefactor, than by oppoling it. 

Thus the principle of gratitude is mppofed, 
even in the nature of a bribe. Bad men know 
how to make this natural principle the molt ef 
fectual means of corruption. The very bell 
things may be turned to a bad ufe. But the na - 
tural tendency of this principle, and the inten- 
tion of Nature in planting it in the human breait, 
are, evidently, to promote good-will among men, 
and to give to good offices the power of multi- 
plying their kind, like feed fown in the earth, 
which brings a return, with increaie. 

Whether there be, or be not, in the more fu- 
gacious brutes, fomething that may be called 


l§6 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

gratitude, I will not difpute. We muft allow 
this important difference between their gratitude 
and that of the humand kind, that, in the laft% 
the mind of the benefactor is chiefly regarded, 
in the firft, the external action only. A brute- 
animal will be as kindly affected to him who 
feeds it in order to kill and eat it, as to him who 
does it from affection. 

A man may be juftly entitled to our gratitude, 
for an office that is ufeful, though it be, at the 
fame, difagreeable ; and not only for doing, but 
for forbearing what he had a right to do. A- 
mong men, it is not every beneficial office that 
claims our gratitude, but fuch only as are not due 
to us in juftice. A favour alone gives a claim to 
gratitude ; and a favour mult be fomething more 
than juftice requires. It does not appear that 
brutes have any conception of juftice. They 
can neither diftinguifh hurt from injury, nor a 
favour from a good office that is due. 

3. A third natural benevolent affection is, pity 
and companion towards the diftreffe-d. 

Of all perfons, thofe in diftrefs ftand moil in 
need of our good offices. And, for that reafon, 
the Author of Nature hath planted in the breaft 
of every human creature a powerful advocate to 
plead their caufe. 

In man, and in fome other animals, there are 
iigns of diftrefs, which Nature hath both taught 
them to ufe, and taught all men to underftand 
without any interpreter, Thefe natural figns 


6y particular benevolent affections. 191 

are more eloquent than language ; they move 
our hearts, and produce a fympathy, and a defire 
to give relief. # 

There are few hearts fo hard, but great diftrefs 
will conquer their anger, their indignation, and 
every malevolent affection. 

We fympathife even with the traitor and with 
the affaffin, when we fee him led to execution. 
It is only felf-prefervation, and the public good, 
that makes us reluclantly affent to his being cut 
off from among men. 

The practice of the Canadian nations toward 
their prifoners would tempt one to think, that 
they have been able to root out the principle of 
companion from their nature. But this, I ap- 
prehend, would be a rafh concluiion. It is only 
a part of the prifoners of war that they devote to 
a cruel death. This gratifies the revenge of the 
women and children who have loft their haf- 
bands and fathers in the war. The other pri- 
foners are kindly ufed, and adopted as brethren. 

Compaffion with bodily pain is no doubt weak- 
ened among thefe favages, becaufe they are train- 
ed from their infancy to be fuperior to death, 
and to every degree of pain ; and he is thought 
unworthy of the name of a man, who cannot defy 
his tormentors, and ling his death-fong in the 
midft of the moll cruel tortures. He who can 
do this, is honoured as a brave man, though an 
enemy. But he mull peri ih in the experiment. 


*9 2 J1SSAY in. {chap. 4. 

A Canadian has the moft perfect contempt for 
every man who thinks pain an intolerable evil. 
And nothing is fo apt to ftifle companion as con- 
tempt, and an apprehenfion, that the evil fuffer- 
ed is nothing but what ought to be manfully 

It muft alfo be obferved, that favages fet no 
bounds to their revenge. Thofe who find no 
protection in laws and government never think 
themfelves fafe, but in the deftruction of their 
enemy. And one of the chief advantages of ci- 
vil government is, that it tempers the cruel paf- 
iion of revenge, and opens the heart to compaf- 
iion with every human woe. 

It feems to be falfe religion only, that is able 
to check the tear of companion. 

We are told, that, in Portugal and Spain, a 
man condemned to be burned as an obftinate he- 
retick, meets with no companion, even from the 
multitude. It is true, they are taught to look 
upon him as an enemy to God, and doomed to 
hell-fire. But lliould not this very circumftance 
move companion ? Surely it would, if they were 
not taught, that, in this cafe, it is a crime to mew 
companion, or even to feel it. 

4. A fourth benevolent affection is, eileem of 
the wife and the good. 

The worft men cannot avoid feeling this in 
fome degree. Efteem, veneration, devotion, are 
different degrees of the fame affection. The per- 
fection cf wifdom, power and goodnefs, which 



belongs only to the Almighty, is the objed of 
the laft. 

It may be a doubt, whether this principle of 
efteem, as well as that of gratitude, ought to be 
ranked in the order of animal principles, or if 
they ought not rather to be placed in a higher 
order. They are certainly more allied to the ra- 
tional nature than the others that have been 
named; nor is it evident, that there is any thing 
in brute^animals that deferves the fame name. 

There is indeed a fubordination in a herd of 
cattle, and in a flock of fheep, which, I believe, 
is determined by ftrength and courage, as it is 
among favage tribes of men. I have been in- 
formed, that, in a pack of hounds, a ftanch hound 
acquires a degree of efteem in the pack ; fo that, 
when the dogs are wandering in queft of the. 
fcent, if he opens, the pack immediately clofe? 
in with him, when they would not regard the 
opening of a dog of no reputation. This is 
fomething like a refpect to wifdom. 

But I have placed efteem of the wife and good 
in the order of animal principles, not from any 
perfualion that it is to be found in brute-animals, 
but becaufe, I think, it appears in the moft un- 
improved and in the moft degenerate part of our 
fpecies, even in thofe in whom we hardly per- 
ceive any exertion, either of reafon or virtue. 

I will not, however, difpute with any man 
who thinks that it deferves a more honourable 
name than that of an animal principle.* It is of 

Vol. TIT. N fmall 

194 essay nr. [chap. 4* 

fmall importance what name we give it, if we 
are fatisfied that there is fuch a principle in the 
human conftitution. 

5. Friendfhip is another benevolent affection* 

Of this we have fome inftances famous in hi- 
ftory : Few indeed ; but fufficient to fhew, that 
human nature is fufceptible of that extraordi- 
nary attachment, fympathy and affection, to one 
or a few perfons„ which the ancients thought a- 
lone worthy of the name of friendfhip. 

The Epicureans found it very difficult to re- 
concile the exiflence of friendfhip to the prin- 
ciples of their feet. They were not fo bold as 
to deny its exiflence. They even boafted that 
there had been more attachments of that kind 
between Epicureans than in any other feet. But 
the difficulty was, to account for real friendfhip 
upon Epicurean principles. They went into diffe- 
rent hypothefes upon this point, three of which 
are explained by Torquatus the Epicurean, in 
Cicero's book, Be Finibus* 

Cicero, in his reply to Torquatus, examines 
all the three, and fhews them all to be either in- 
confiftent w T ith the nature of true friendfhip, or 
inconfiftent with the fundamental principles of 
the Epicurean feet. 

As to the friendfhip which the Epicureans 
boafted of among thofe of their feet, Cicero does 
not queftion the fact, but obferves, that, as there 
are many whofe practice is worfe than their 
principles^ fo there are fome whofe principles 



are worfe than their practice, and that the bad 
principles of thefe Epicureans were overcome by 
the goodnefs of their nature. 

6. Among the benevolent affections, the paf- 
fion of love between the fexes cannot be over- 

Although it is commonly the theme of Poets, 
it is not unworthy of the pen of the Philofopher, 
as it is a moft important part of the human con- 

It is no doubt made up of various ingredients, 
as many other principles of action are, but it 
certainly cannot exift without a very ftrong be- 
nevolent affection toward its objeft ; in whom 
it finds, or conceives, every thing that is amiable 
and excellent, and even fomething more than 
human. I confider it here, only as a benevolent 
affection natural to man. And that it is fo, no 
man can doubt who ever felt its force. 

It is evidently intended by Nature to direct, a 
man in the choice of a mate, with whom he de- 
lires to live, and to rear an offspring. 

It has effectually fecured this end in all ages, 
and in every flate of fociety. 

The paffionof love, and the parental affection, 
are counterparts to each other ; and when they 
are conducted with prudence, and meet with a 
proper return, are the fource of all domeftic fe- 
licity, the greateft, next to that of a good con- 
ference, which this world affords, 

N a. As, 


As, in the prefent Hate of things, pain often 
dwells near to pleafure, and forrow to joy, it 
needs not be thought ftrange, that a paffion, fit- 
ted and intended by Nature to yield the great- 
eft worldly felicity, fhould, by being ill regulat- 
ed, or wrong directed, prove the occafion of the 
molt pungent diftrefs. 

But its joys and its griefs, its different modi- 
fications in the different fexes, and its influence 
upon the character of both, though very impor- 
tant fubjects, are fitter to be fung than faid ; and 
I leave them to thofe who have flept upon the 
two-topped ParnafTuSi 

7. The lafi benevolent affection I fhall men- 
tion is, what we commonly call public Jpirit, that 
is, an affection to any community to which we 

If there be any man quite deftitute of this af- 
fection, he muft be as great a monfter as a man 
born with two heads. Its effects are manifeft in 
the whole of human life, and in the hiflory of 
all nations. 

The fituation of a great part of mankind, in- 
deed, is fuch, that their thoughts and views muft 
be confined within a very narrow fphere, and 
be very much engr-offed by their private con- 
cerns. With regard to an extenfive public, fuch 
as a ftate or nation, they are like a drop to the 
ocean, fo that they have rarely an opportunity 
of acting with a view to it, 



In many, whofe actions may affect the public, 
and whofe rank and ftation lead them to think 
of it, private paffions may be an overmatch for 
public fpirit. All that can be inferred from this 
is, that their public fpirit is weak, not that it 
does not exift. 

If a man wifhes well to the public, and is 
ready to do good to it rather than hurt, when it 
cofts him nothing, he has fome affection to it, 
though it may be fcandaloufly weak in degree. 

I believe every man has it in one degree or 
another. What man is there who does not re- 
fent fatyrical reflections upon his country, or 
upon any community of which he is a mem- 
ber ? 

Whether the affection be to a college or to a 
cloifter, to a clan or to a profeffion, to a party or 
to a nation, it is public fpirit. Thefe affections 
differ, not in kind, but in the extent of their 

The object extends as our connections extend; 
and a fenfe of the connection carries the affec- 
tion along with it to every community to which 
we can apply the pronouns we and our. 

Friend, parent, neighbour, firft it will embrace, 
His country next, and then all human race. Pope. 

Even in the mifanthrope, this affection is not 

extinguifhed. It is overpowered by the appre- 

henfion he has of the worthleffnefs, the bafenefs, 

3nd the ingratitude of mankind. Convince him ? 

N 3 that 

198 ISSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

that there is any amiable quality in the fpecies, 
and immediately his philanthropy revives, and 
rejoices to find an object on which it can exert 

Public fpirit has this in common with every 
fubordinate principle of action, that, when it is 
not under the government of reafon and virtue, 
it may produce much evil as well as good. Yet, 
where there is leaft of reafon and virtue, to re- 
gulate it, its good far overbalances its ill. 

It fometimes kindles or inflames animoflties 
between communities, or contending parties, 
and makes them treat each other with little re- 
gard to juftice. It kindles wars between na- 
tions, and makes them deftroy one another for 
trifling caufes. But, without it, fociety could 
not fubfift, and every community would be a 
rope of fand. 

When under the direction of reafon and vir- 
tue, it is the very image of God in the foul. 
It difFufes its benign influence as far as its power 
extends, and participates in the happinefs of 
God, and of the whole creation. 

Thefe are the benevolent affections which ap- 
pear to me to be parts of the human conftitu- 

If any one thinks the enumeration incomplete, 
and that there are natural benevolent affections, 
which are not included under any of thofe that 
have been named, I fhall very readily liften to 



inch a correction, being fenfible that fuch enu- 
merations are very often incomplete. 

If others mould think that any, or all, the af- 
fections I have named, are acquired by educa- 
tion, or by habits and aflbciations grounded on 
felf-love, and are not original parts of our confti- 
tution ; this is a point upon which, indeed, there 
has been much fubtile difputation in ancient and 
modern times, and which, 1 believe, rnuft be de- 
termined from what a man, by careful reflection, 
may feel in himfelf, rather than from what he 
obferves in others. But I decline entering into 
this difpute, till I fhall have explained that prin- 
ciple of action which we commonly call feif- 

I fhall conclude this fubject with fome reflec- 
tions upon the benevolent affections. 

The^r/2 is, That all of them, in as far as they 
are benevolent, in which view only I confider 
them, agree very much in the conduct they dif- 
-pofe us to, with regard to their objects. 

They difpofe us to do them good as far as we 
have power and opportunity ; to wifh them well, 
when we can do them no good ; to judge fa- 
vourably, and often partially, of them ; to fym- 
pathife with them in their afflictions and cala- 
mities ; and to rejoice with them in their happi- 
nefs and good fortune. 

It is impofiible that there can be benevolent 
affection without fympathy, both with the good 
arid bad fortune of the object } and it appears 

N 4 to 


to be impofiible that there can be fympathy with- 
out benevolent affection. Men do not fympa- 
thife with one whom they hate ; nor even with 
one to whofe good or ill they are perfectly in- 

We may fympathife with a perfect ftranger, 
or even with an enemy whom we fee in diftrefs ; 
but this is the effect of pity ; and if we did not 
pity him, we mould not fympathife with him. 

I take notice of this the rather, becaufe a very 
ingenious author in his Theory of Moral Senti- 
ments, gives a very different account of the ori- 
gin of fympathy. It appears to me to be the ef- 
fect of benevolent affection, and to be infepa- 
rable from it. 

Afecond reflection is, That the constitution of 
our nature very powerfully invites us to cherifh 
and cultivate in our minds the benevolent affec- 

The agreeable feeling which always attends 
them as a prefent reward, appears to be intended 
by Nature for this purpofe. 

Benevolence, from its nature, compofes the 
mind, warms the heart, enjivens the whole frame, 
and brightens every feature of the countenance. 
It may juftly be faid to be medicinal both to foul 
and body. We are bound to it by duty ; we 
are invited to it by interelt ; and becaufe both 
thefe cords are often feeble, we have natural 
land affections to aid them in their operation^ 



and fupply their defects ; and thefe affections 
are joined with a manly pleafure in their exer- 

A third reflection is, That the natural bene- 
volent affections furnifh the moil irrefiftible 
proof, that the Author of our nature intended 
that we fhould live in fociety, and do good to 
our fellow-men as we have opportunity; lince 
this great and important part of the human con- 
stitution has a manifelt relation to fociety, and 
can have no exercife nor ufe in a folitary itate. 

The lafi reflection is, That the different prin- 
ciples of action have different degrees of digni- 
ty, and rife one above another in our eftimation, 
when we make them objects of contemplation. 

We afcribe no dignity to inftincts or to habits. 
They lead us only to admire the wifdom of the 
Creator, in adapting them fo perfectly to the 
manner of life of the different animals in which 
they are found. Much the fame may be faid of 
appetites. They ferve rather for ufe than orna- 

The defires of knowledge, of power, and of 
efteem, rife higher in our eftimation, and we con- 
fider them as giving dignity and ornament to 
man. The actions proceeding from them, though 
not properly virtuous, are manly and refpectable, 
and claim a juft fuperiority over thofe that pro- 
ceed merely from appetite. This I think is the 
uniform judgment of mankind. 


202 ESSAY III. [CHAP, 4„ 

If we apply the kind of judgment to our fame 
benevolent affections, they appear not only manly 
and refpectable, but amiable in a high degree. 

They are amiable even in brute-animals. We 
love the meeknefs of the lamb, the gentlenefs of 
the dove, the affection of a dog to his mailer. We 
cannot, without pleafure, obferve the timid ewe, 
who never Ihewed the leaft degree of courage in 
her own defence, become valiant and intrepid in 
defence of her lamb, and boldly affault thofe 
enemies, the very light of whom was wont to 
put her to flight. 

How pleafant is it to fee the family economy 
of a pair of little birds in rearing their tender off- 
fpring ; the conjugal affection and fidelity of the 
parents ; their cheerful toil and induftry in pro- 
viding their family ; their fagacity in con- 
cealing their habitation ; the arts they ufe, often 
at the peril of their own lives, to decoy hawks, 
and other enemies, from their :dwelling-place, and 
the affliction they feel when fame unlucky boy 
has robbed them of the dear pledges of their af- 
fection, and fruflrated all their hopes of their 
riling family ? 

If kind affection be amiable in brutes, it is net 
lefs fo in our own fpecies. Even the external 
iigns of it have a powerful charm. 

Every one knows that a perfon of accomplilh- 
ed good breeding, charms every one he converfes 
with. And what is this good breeding ? If we 
analyze it, we fhall find it to be made up of 



looks, geftures and fpeeches, which are the na- 
tural ligns of benevolence and good affection. 
He who has got the habit of ufing thefe ligns 
with propriety, and without meannefs, is a well- 
bred and a polite man. 

What is that beauty in the features of the 
face, particularly of the fair fex, which all men 
love and admire? I believe it confifts chiefly in 
the features which indicate good affections. Eve- 
ry indication of meeknefs, gentlenefs, and benig- 
nity, is a beauty. On the contrary, every fea- 
ture that indicates pride, paffion, envy, and ma- 
lignity, is a deformity. 

Kind affections, therefore, are amiable in 
brutes. Even the figns and fhadows of them are 
highly attractive in our own fpecies. Indeed 
they are the joy and the comfort of human life, 
not to good men only, but even to the vicious 
and diffolute. 

Without fociety, and the intercourfe of kind 
affection, man is a gloomly, melancholy and joy- 
lefs being. His mind oppreffed with cares and 
fears, he cannot enjoy the balm of found fleep : 
in conftant dread of impending danger, he ftarts 
at the ruftling of a leaf. His ea s are conti- 
nual!^ upon the flretch, and every zephyr brings 
fome found that alarms him. 

When he enters into fociety, and fe Is fecurity 
in the good affection of friend a d neighbours, 
it is then only that his fear vanifhes, and his 
mind is at eafc His courage is raifed. his un- 


S04, ESSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

derftanding is enlightened, and his heart dilates 
with joy. 

Human fociety may be compared to a heap of 
ambers, which when placed afunder, can retain 
neither their light nor heat, amidfh the furround- 
ing elements \ but when brought together they 
mutually give heat and light to each other ; the 
-ilame breaks forth, and not only defends itfelf, 
but fubdues every thing around it. 

The fecurity, the happinefs, and the flrength 
of human fociety, fpring folely from the reci- 
procal benevolent affections of its members. 

The benevolent affections, though they be all 
honourable and lovely, are not all equally fo. 
There is a fubordination among them ; and the 
honour we pay to them generally correfponds to 
the extent of their object. 

The good hufband, the good father, the good 
friend, the good neighbour, we honour as a good 
man, worthy of our love and affection. But the 
man in whom thefe more private affections are 
f wallowed up in zeal for the good of his country, 
and of mankind, who goes about doing good, 
and feeks opportunities of being ufeful to his 
fpecies, we revere as more than a good man, as 
& hero, as a good angel. 

L< JtA ft. 



G HAP. V„ 

Of Malevolent Affeclion. 

ARE there r in the conftitution of man, any 
affections that may be called malevolent ? 
What are they ? And what is their ufe and end ? 

To me there feem to be two, which we may 
call by that name. They are emulation and re^ 
fentment. Thefe I take to be parts of the hu- 
man conftitution, given us by our Maker for 
good ends, and, when properly directed and re- 
gulated, of excellent ufe. But, as their excefs 
or abufe, to which human nature is very prone, 
is the fource and fpring of all the malevolence 
that is to be found among men, it is on that ac- 
count I call them malevolent. 

If any man thinks that they deferve a fofter 
name, fince they may be exercifed according to- 
the intention of Nature, without malevolence, to 
this I have no objection. 

By emulation, I mean, a deli re of fuperiority 
to our rivals in any purfuit, accompanied with 
an uneaiinefs at being furpaffed. 

Human life has juftly been compared to a 
race. The prize is fuperiority in one kind or 
another. But the fpecies or forms (if I may ufe 
the expreffion) of fuperiority among men are in- 
finitely diverlified. 


206 ESSAY III. [CHAP, g* 

There is no man fo contemptible in his owa 
eyes, as to hinder him from entering the lifts in 
one form or another ; and he will always find 
competitors to rival him in his own way. 

We fee emulation among brute- animals. Dogs 
and horfes contend each with his kind in the 
race. Many animals of the gregarious kind 
contend for fuperiority in their flock or herd, 
and Ihew manifeft figns of jealoufy when others 
pretend to rival them. 

The emulation of the brute-animals is moftly 
confined to fwiftnefs, or ftrength, or favour with 
their femals. But the emulation of the human 
kind has a much wider field. 

In every profeffion, and in every accomplifh- 
ment of body or mind, real or imaginary, there 
are rivalfhips. Literary men rival one another 
in literary abilities. Artifts in their feveral arts. 
The fair fex in their beauty and attractions, and 
ih the refpect paid them by the other fex. 

In every political fociety, from a petty cor- 
poration up the national adminiftration, there is 
a rivalfhip for power and influence. 

Men have a natural defire of power without 
refpect to the power of others. This we call 
ambition. But the defire of fuperiority, either in 
power, or in any thing we think worthy of efti- 
mation, has a refpecl: to rivals, and is what we 
properly call emulation. 

The ftronger the defire is, the more pungent 
will be the uneafinefs of being found behind, and 



the mind will be the more hurt by this humilia- 
ting view. 

Emulation has a manifeft tendency to improve- 
ment. Without it life would ftagnate, and the 
difcoveries of art and genius would be at a Hand. 
This principle produces a conftant fermentation 
in fociety, by which, though dregs may be pro- 
duced, the better part is purified and exalted to 
a perfection, which it could not otherwife at- 

We have not fufficient data for a comparifon 
of the good and bad effects which this principle 
actually produces in fociety ; but there is ground 
to think of this, as of other natural principles,, 
that the good overbalances the ill. As far as it 
is under the dominion of reafon and virtue, its 
effects are always good ; when left to be guided 
by paffion and folly, they are often very bad. 

Reafon directs us to ftrive for fuperiority, on- 
ly in things that have real excellence, otherwife 
we fpend our labour for that which profiteth 
not. To value ourfelves for fuperiority in things 
that have no real worth, or none, compared with 
what they coft, is to be vain of our own folly ; 
and to be uneafy at the fuperiority of others in 
fuch things, is no lefs ridiculous. 

Reafon directs us to ftrive for fuperiority on- 
ly in things in our power, and attainable by our 
exertion, otherwife we fhall be like the frog in 
the fable, who fwelled herfelf till fhe built, in 
order to equal the ox in magnitude. 



To check all defire of things not attainable, 
and every uneafy thought in the want of them, is 
an obvious di&ate of prudence, as well as of vir- 
tue and religion. 

If emulation be regulated by fuch maxims of 
reafon, and all undue partiality to ourfelves be 
laid afide, it will be a powerful principle of our 
improvement, without hurt to any other perfon. 
It will give ftrength to the nerves, and vigour to 
the mind, in every noble and manly purfuit. 

But difmal are its effects, when it is not under 
the, direction of reafon and virtue. It has often 
the moll malignant influence on mens opinions, 
on their affedtions, and on their actions. 

It is an old obfervation, that affection follows 
opinion \ and it is undoubtedly true in many 
cafes. A man cannot be grateful without the 
opinion of a favour done him. He cannot have 
deliberate refentment without the opinion of an 
injury; nor efteem without the opinion of Tome 
eftimable quality ; nor compaffiOn without the 
opinion of fuffering. 

But it is no lefs true, that opinion fometimes 
follows affection, not that it ought, but that it 
actually does fo, by giving a falfe bias to our 
judgment. We are apt to be partial to our 
friends, and {till more to ourfelves. 

Hence the defire of fuperiority leads men to 
put an uridue eflimation upon thofe things 
wherein they excel, or think they excel. And, 



by this means, pride may feed itfelf upon the. 
very dregs of human nature. 

The fame defire of fuperiority may lead men 
to undervalue thofe things wherein they either 
defpair of excelling, or care not to make the ex- 
ertion neceiTary for that end. The grapes are 
four, faid the fox, when he faw them beyond his 
reach. The fame principle leads men to detract 
from the merit of others, and to impute their 
brighteft actions to mean or bad motives. 

He who runs a race feels uneafinefs at feeing 
another outltrip him. This is uncorrupted na- 
ture, and the work of God within him. But 
this uneafinefs may produce either of two very 
different effects. It may incite him to make 
more vigorous exertions, and to (train every 
nerve to get before his rival. This is fair and 
honeit emulation. This is the effect it is intend- 
ed to produce. But if he has not fairnefs and 
candour of heart, he will look with an evil eye 
upon his competitor, and will endeavour to trip 
him, or to throw a Humbling block in his way. 
This is pure envy, the moft malignant pafiion 
that can lodge in the human breaft ; which de- 
vours, as its natural food, the fame and the hap* 
pinefs of thofe who are moft deferring of our 

If there be, in fome men, a pronenefs to de- 
tract from the character, even of perfons un- 
known or indifferent, in others an avidity to 
hear and to propagate fcandal, to what prin- 

Vol. Ill, O ciple 

213 £SSAY III. [CHAP. £* 

ciple in human nature mull we afcribe thefe 
qualities ? The failings of others furely add no- 
thing to our worth, nor are they, in themfelves, 
a pleafant fubjecl: of thought or of difcourfe. 
But they flatter pride, by giving an opinion of 
our fuperiority to thofe from whom we detract. 

Is it not poffible, that the fame defire of fu- 
periority may have fome fecret influence upon 
thofe who love to difplay their eloquence in de- 
claiming upon the corruption of human nature, 
and the wickednefs, fraud and infincerity of 
mankind in general ? It ought always to be ta- 
ken for granted, that the declaimer is an excep- 
tion to the general rule,-otherwife he would ra- 
ther choofe, even for his own fake, to draw a 
veil over the nakednefs of his fpecies. But hop- 
ing that his audience will be fo civil as not to 
include him in the black defcription, he rifes 
fuperior by the depreffion of the fpecies, and 
ftands alone, like Noah in the antediluvian 
world. This looks like envy againft the human 

It would be endlefs, and no ways agreeable, 
to enumerate all the evils and all the vices 
which paflion and folly beget upon emulation* 
Here, as in molt cafes, the corruption of the 
heft, things is the worft. In brute-animals, 
emulation has little matter to work upon, and 
its effects, good or bad, are few. It may pro- 
duce battles of cocks and battles of bulls, and 
little elfe that is cbfervable. But in mankind, 



it has an infinity of matter to work upon, and 
its good or bad effects, according as it is well or 
ill regulated and directed., multiply in propor- 

The conclufion to be drawn from what has 
been faid upon this principle is, That emula- 
tion, as far as it is a part of our conftitution, is 
highly ufeful and important in fociety ; that in 
the wife and good, it produces the belt effects 
without any harm • but in the foolifh and vicU 
ous, it is the parent of a great part of the evils 
of life, and of the moll malignant vices that 
flain human nature. 

We are next to confider refentment. 

Nature difpofes us, when we are hurt, to re- 
fill and retaliate. Beiides the bodily pain oc~ 
cafioned by the hurt, the mind is ruffled, and a 
delire raifed to retaliate upon the author of 
the hurt or injury. This, in general, is what 
we call anger or refentment. 

A very important diftinction is made by Bi- 
fhop Butler between fudden refentment, which 
is a blind impulfe ariling from our conftitution,, 
and that which is deliberate. The firft may be 
raifed b}' hurt of any kind ; but the laft can on- 
ly be raifed by injury, real or conceived. 

The fame diflinction is made by Lord Rame? 
in his Elements of Criticifm. What Butler calls 
fudden, he calls infiinflive. 

We have not, in common language, different 
names for thefe different kinds of refentment ; 

O 2 bllt 

212 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5. 

but the diftinction is very neceffary, in order to 
our having juft notions of this part of the hu- 
man conftitution. It correfponds perfectly with 
the diftinction I have made between the animal 
and rational principles of action. For this fud- 
den or inftinctive refentment, is an animal prin- 
ciple common to us with brute-animals. But 
that refentment which the authors I have named 
call deliberate, rauft fall under the clafs of ra- 
tional principles. 

It is to be obferved, however, that, by refer- 
ring it to that clafs, I do not mean, that it is al- 
ways kept within the bounds that reafon pre- 
scribes, but only that it is proper to man as a 
reafonable being, capable, by his rational facul- 
ties, of diftinguifhing between hurt and injury ; 
a diftinction which no brute-animal can make. 

Both thefe kinds of refentment are raifed, 
whether the hurt or injury be done to ourfelves, 
or to thofe we are interefted in. 

Wherever there is any benevolent affection 
towards others, we refent their wrongs, in pro- 
portion to the flrength of our affection. Pity 
and fympathy with the fufferer, produce refent- 
ment againft the author of the fuffering, as na- 
turally as concern for ourfelves produces refent- 
ment of our own wrongs. 

I fhall fh-ft conlider that refentment which I 
call animal, which Butler, calls fudden, and 
Lord Kames ir/Jlinflive; 



In every animal to which Nature hath given 
the power of hurting its enemy, we fee an en^- 
deavour to retaliate the ill that is done to it. 
Even a moufe will bite when it cannot run 

Perhaps there may be fome animals to whom 
Nature hath given no ofTeniive weapon. To 
fuch, anger and refentment would be of no ufe ; 
and I believe we lhall find, that they never fhew 
any fign of it. But there are few of this kind. 

Some of the more fagacious animals can be 
provoked to fierce anger, and' retain it long. 
Many of them (hew great animofity in defend- 
ing their young, who hardly fhew any in de- 
fending themfelves. Others refift every affault 
made upon the flock or herd to which they be- 
long. Bees defend their hive, wild beafis their 
den, and birds their neft. 

This fudden refentment operates in a fimilar 
manner in men and in brutes, and appears to 
be given by Nature to both for the fame end, 
namely, for defence, even in cafes where there 
is no time for deliberation. It may be compa- 
red to that natural inftinct, by which a man, 
who has loft his balance and begins to fall, makes 
a fudden and violent effort to recover himfelf, 
without any intention or deliberation. 

In fuch efforts, men often exert a degree of 

mufcular ftrength beyond what they are able to 

exert by a .calm determination of the will, and 

3 thereby 

114 ESSAY III. {CHA.P. 5. 

thereby fave themfelves from many a dangerous 

By a like violent and fudden impulfe, Nature 
prompts us to repel hurt upon the caufe of it, 
whether it be man or beaft. The inftinct be- 
fore mentioned is folely defend ve, and is promp- 
ted by fear. This fudden refentment is offen- 
iive, and is prompted by anger, but with a view 
to defence. 

Man, in his prefent ftate, is furrounded with 
fo many dangers from his own fpecies, from 
brute-animals, -*from every thing around him, 
that he has need of fome defensive armour that 
fhall always be ready in the moment of danger. 
His reafon is of great ufe for this purpofe, when 
there is time to apply it. But, in many cafes, 
the mifchief would be done before reafon could 
think of the means of preventing it. 

The wifdom of Nature hath provided two 
means to fupply this defect of our reafon. One 
of thefe is the initinct before mentioned, by 
which the body, upon the appearance of dan- 
ger, is inilantly, and without thought or inten- 
tion, put in that pofiure which is proper for pre- 
venting the danger, or lefTening it. Thus, we 
wink hard when our eyes are threatened 3 we 
ber. 1 the body to avoid a ftroke ; we make a 
fudden effort to recover our balance, when in 
danger of falling. By fuch means we are 
guarded from many dangers which our reafon 
svpjold come too late to prevent. 



But as offend ve arms are often the fureft means 
of defence, by deterring the enemy from an af- 
fault, Nature hath alfo provided man, and other 
animals, with this kind of defence, by that fud- 
den refentment of which we now fpeak, which 
outruns the quickeft determinations of reafon ? 
' and takes fire in an inftant, threatening the ene- 
my with retaliation. 

The firft of thefe principles operates upon the 
defender only ; but this operates both upon the 
-defender and the affailant, infpiring the former 
with courage and animofity, and itriking terror 
into the latter. It proclaims to all affailants, what 
our ancient Scottifh kings did upon their coins, 
by the emblem of a thiftle, with this motto, 
Nemo me impane lacejfct. By this, in innume- 
rable cafes, men and beafts are deterred from 
doing hurt, and others thereby fecured from fuf- 
fering it. 

But as refentment fuppofes an object, on whom 
we may retaliate, how comes it to pafe, that in 
brutes very often, and fometirnesin our own fpe- 
-cies, we fee it wreaked upon inanimate things, 
which are incapable of fuffering by it ? 

Perhaps it might be a fufficient anfwer to this 
queftion, That Nature acts by general laws, 
which, in fome particular cafes, may go beyond, 
or fall ihort of their intention, though they be 
-ever fo well adapted to it in general. 

But I confefs it feems to me impofiible, that 
.there fhould be refentment againfi a thing, which 
Oi .at 

3l6 JSSAY III. [CHAP. 5, 

at that very moment is confidered as inanimate, 
a,nd confequently incapable either of intending 
hurt, or of being punifhed. For what can be 
more abfard, than to be angry with the knife 
for cutting me, or with the weight for falling 
upon my toes ? There muft therefore, I con,, 
ceive, be fome momentary notion or conception 
that the object of our refentment is capable of 
punifhment ; and if it be natural, before rejec- 
tion, to be angry with things inanimate, it feems 
to be a necefTary confequence, that it is natural 
to think that they have life and feeling. 

Several phenomena in human nature lead us 
to conjecture that, in the earlieil period of life, 
we are apt to think every object about us to be 
animated. Judging of them by ourfelves, we 
afcribe to them the feelings we are confcious of 
in ourfelves. So we fee a little girl judges of 
her doll and of her play-things. And Jo we fee 
rude nations judge of the heavenly bodies, of the 
elements, and of the fea, rivers, and fountains. 

If this be fo, it ought not to he faid, that by 
reafon and experience, we learn to afcribe life 
and intelligence to things which we before con- 
fidered as inanimate. It ought rather to be faid. 
That by reafon and experience we learn that 
certain things are inanimate, to which at firft we 
afcribed life and intelligence. 

If this be true, it is lefs furprifing that, be- 
fore reflection, we mould for a moment relapfe, 
into this prejudice of our early years, and treat 



things as if they had life, which we once be- 
lieved to have it. 

It does not much affect, our prefent argument, 
whether this be, or be not the caufe, why a dog 
purfues and gnaflies at the ftone that hurt him; 
and why a man in a paffion, for loflng at play, 
fometimes wreaks his vengeance on the cards or 

It is not ftrange that a blind animal impulfe 
mould fometimes lofe its proper direction. In 
brutes this has no bad confequence ; in men the 
lead ray of reflection corrects it, and fhews its 

It is mfliciently evident, upon the whole, that 
this fudden, or animal refentment, is intended 
by Nature for our defence. It prevents mifchief 
by the fear of punifhment. It is a kind of pe- 
nal ftatute, promulgated by Nature, the execu- 
tion of which is committed to the fufferer. 

It may be expected indeed, that one who 
judges in his own caufe, will be difpofed to feek 
more than an equitable redrefs. But this difpo- 
fition is checked by the refentment of the other 

Yet, in the Hate of nature, injuries once be- 
gun, will often be reciprocated between the 
parties, until mortal enmity is produced, and 
each party thinks himfelf fafe only in the dc 
(truction of his enemy. 

This right of redrefling and punifhing our 
pwn wrongs, fo apt to be abufed, is one of thofe 


2l8 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5. 

natural rights, which, in political fociety, is gi- 
ven up to the laws, and to the civil magiftrate ; 
and this indeed is one of the capital advantages 
we reap from the political union, that the evils 
sarifing from ungoverned refentment are in a 
great degree prevented. 

Although deliberate refentment does not pro- 
perly belong to the clafs of animal principles ; 
yet, as both have the fame name, and are diftin- 
guifhed only by Philofophers, and as in real life 
they are commonly intermixed, I (hall here make 
tome remarks upon it. 

A fmall degree of reafon and reflection teaches 
a man that injury only, and not mere hurt, is 
a juft object of refentment to a rational creature. 
A man may -fuffer grievoufly by the hand of 
another, not only without injury, but with the 
raoft friendly intention ; as in the cafe of a pain- 
ful chirurgical operation. Every man of com- 
mon fenfe fees, that to refent fuch fuffering, is 
not the part of a man, but of a brute. 

Mr* Locke mentions a gentleman who, ha- 
ving been cured of madnefs by a very harfh 
and ofFenfive operation, with great fenfe of gra- 
titude, owned the cure as the greateft obligation 
he could have received, but could never bear 
the light of the operator, becaufe it brought 
back the idea of that agony which he had en- 
dured from his hands. 

In this cafe we fee diftinctly the operation 
both of the animal, and of the rational prin- 
ciple. The firft produced an averfion to the 



operator, which reafon was not able to over- 
come ; and probably in a weak mind, might 
have produced lading refentment and hatred. 
But, in this gentleman, reafon fo far prevailed, 
as to make him fenlible that gratitude, and not 
refentment, was due. 

Suffering may give a bias to the judgment, 
and make us apprehend injury where no injury 
is done. But, I think, without an apprehenfion 
of injury, there can be no deliberate refentment. 

Hence, among enlightened nations, hoftile ar- 
mies fight without anger or refentment. The 
vanquifhed are not treated as offenders, but as 
brave men who have fought for their country 
unfuecefsfully, and who are entitled to every 
office of humanity coniiftent with the fafety of 
the conquerors. 

If we analyze that deliberate refentment which 
is proper to rational creatures, we {hall find that 
though it agrees with that which is merely ani- 
mal in fome refpedts, it differs in others. Both 
are accompanied with an uneafy fenfation, which 
difturbs the peace of the mind. Both prompt 
us to feek redrefs of our fufferings, and fecurity 
from harm. But, in deliberate refentment, there 
mull be an opinion of injury done or intended. 
And an opinion of injury implies an idea of 
juftice, and confequently a moral faculty. 

The very notion of an injury is, that it is 
lefs than we may juftly claim ; as, on the con- 
trary, the notion of a favour is, that it is more 


220 ZSSAY III. [CHAP. 5, 

than we can juftly claim. Whence it is evident, 
that juftice is the ftandard, by which both a fa- 
vour, and an injury, are to be weighed and efti- 
mated. Their very nature and definition con- 
iift in their exceeding or falling fhort of this 
ftandard. No man therefore, can have the idea 
either of a favour or of an injury, who has not 
the idea of juftice. 

That very idea of juftice which enters into 
cool and deliberate relentment, tends to reftrain 
its exceffes. For as there is injuftice in doing 
an injury, fo there is injuftice in punifhing it 
beyond meafure. 

To a man of candour and reflection, confci- 
oufnefs of the frailty of human nature, and that 
he has often flood in need of forgivenefs himfelf, 
the pleafure of renewing good underftanding, 
after it has been interrupted, the inward appro- 
bation of a generous and forgiving difpofition, 
and even the irkfomenefs and uneafinefs of a 
mind ruffled by refentment, plead ftrongly againft 
its exceffes. 

Upon the whole, when we confider, That, on 
the one had, every benevolent affeclion is plea- 
fant in its nature, is health to the foul, and a cor- 
dial to the fpirits ; That Nature has made even 
the outward expreflion of benevolent affections 
in the countenance, pleafant to every beholder, 
and the chief ingredient of beauty in the human 
face divine; That, on the other hand, every ma- 
levolent affection, not only in its faulty exceffes, 
but in its moderate degrees, is vexation and dif- 



quiet to the mind, and even gives deformity to 
the countenance, it is evident that, by thefe lig- 
nals, Nature loudly admonifhes us to ufe the 
former as our daily bread, both for health and 
pleafure, but to conlider the latter as a naufeous 
medicine, which is never to be taken without 
neceffity ; and even then in no greater quantity 
than the neceffity requires. 

Of Pajpon. 

BEfore I proceed to conlider the rational 
principles of action, it is proper to obferve ? 
that there are fome things belonging to the mind, 
which have great influence upon human con- 
duct, by exciting or allaying, inflaming or cool- 
ing the animal principles we have mentioned. 

Three of this kind deferve particular confide- 
ration. I fhall call them by the names of pajfion, 
difpojition, and opinion. 

The meaning of the word pajjion is not pre- 
cifely afcertained, either in common difcourfe, 
or in the writings of Philofophers. 

I think it is commonly put to fignify fome 
agitation of mind, which is oppofed to that (late 
of tranquillity and compofure, in which a man 
is moll mailer of himfelf. 

The word vr<x.Qo<;, which anfwers to it in the 
Greek language, is, by Cicfro, rendered by the 
word pertvrbatio, 


222 iSSAY III. [CHAP. & 

It has always been conceived to bear analogy 
to a ftorm at fea, or to a tempeft in the air. It 
does not therefore fignify any thing in the mind 
that is conftant and permanent, but fomething 
that is occafional, and has a limited duration, 
like a ftorm or tempeft. 

Paffion commonly produces fenfible effects even 
upon the body. It changes the voice, the fea- 
tures, and the gefture. The external figns of 
paffion have, in fome cafes, a great refemblance 
to thofe of madnefs ; in others, to thofe of me- 
lancholy. It gives often a degree of mufculai 
force and agility to the body, far beyond what 
it poffeffes in calm moments. 

The effects of paffion upon the mind are not 
lefs remarkable. It turns the thoughts involun- 
tarily to the objeds related to it, fo that a man 
can hardly think of any thing elfe. It gives 
often a ftrange bias to the judgment, making 
a man quickfighted in every thing that tends to 
inflame his paffion, and to juftify it, but blind to 
every thing that tends to moderate and allay it. 
Like a magic lanthorn, it raifes up fpe&res and 
apparitions that have no reality, and throws faife 
colours upon every object. It can turn deformity 
into beauty, vice into virtue, and virtue into vice. 

The fentiments of a man under its influ- 
ence will appear abfurd and ridiculous, not only 
to other men, but even to him felf when the ftorm 
is fpent and is facceeded by a calm. Paffion of- 
ten gives a violent impulfe to the will, and makes 


or passion, 211 

a man do what be knows he fhall repent as long 
as he lives. 

That fuch are the effects of paffion, I think ail 
men agree. They have been deicribed. in lively 
colours by poets, orators and moralifts, in all 
ages. But men have given more attention to the 
effects of paffion than to its nature ; and while 
they have copioufly and elegantly defcribed the 
former, they have not precifely defined the lat- 

The controverfy between the ancient Peripa- 
tetics and the Stoics, with regard to the paffions, 
was probably owing to their affixing different . 
meanings to the word. The one feci maintain/ 
ed, that the paffions are good, and uieful parts >bf 
our conftitution, while they are held under the 
government of reafon. The other feci, concei- 
ving that nothing is to be called paffion which 
does not, in fome degree, cloud and darken the 
underftanding, confidered all paffion as hoftile to 
reafon, and therefore maintained, that, in the 
wife man, paffion mould have no exiitence, but 
be utterly exterminated. 

If both feels had agreed about the definition 
of paffion, they would probably have had no dif- 
ference. But while one confidered paffion only 
as the caufe of thofe bad effects which it often 
produces, and the other confidered it as. fitted by 
Nature to produce good effects, while it is under 
fubjection to reafon, it does not appear that what 
one feet juftiSed, u'as the fame thing which the 


224 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6. 

other condemned. Both allowed that no dictate 
of paffion ought to be followed in oppolition to 
reafon. Their difference therefore was verbal 
more than real, and was owing to their giving 
different meanings to the fame word. 

The precife meaning of this word' feems not 
to be more clearly afcertained among modern 

Mr Hume gives the name of paffion to every 
principle of action in the human mind ; and, in 
eonfequence of this maintains, that every man is, 
and oughtto be led by his paffions, and that the 
ufe of reafon is to be fubfervient to the paffions. 

Dr H&TCHESON, confidering all the principles 
of action as fo many determinations or motions 
of the will, divides them into the calm and the 
turbulent. The turbulent, he fays, are our ap- 
petites and our paffions. Of the paffions, as well 
as of the calm determinations, he fays, that 
" fome are benevolent, others are felfifh ; that 
" anger, envy, indignation, and fome others, may 
" be either felfifh or benevolent, according as 
" they arife from fome oppofition to our own 
" interefts, or to thofe of our friends, or perfons 
" beloved or efleemed." 

It appears, therefore, that this excellent author 
gives the name of pajjloiis, not to every principle 
of action, but to fome, and to thofe only when 
they are turbulent and vehement, not when they 
are calm and deliberate. 



Our natural defires and affections may be fo 
calm as to leave room for reflection, fo that we 
find no difficulty in deliberating cooly, whether, 
in fuch a particular inftance, they ought to be 
gratified or not. On other occafions, they may 
be fo importunate as to make deliberation very 
difficult, urging us, by a kind of violence, to their 
immediate gratification. 

Thus, a man may be feniible of an injury with- 
out being inflamed. He judges coolly of the inju- 
ry, and of the proper means of redrefs. This is 
refentment without paffion. It leaves to the man 
the entire command of himfelf. 

On another occafion, the fame principle of re- 
fentment rifes into a flame. His blood boils 
within him ; his looks, his voice, and his gefture 
are changed ; he can think of nothing bat im- 
mediate revenge, and feels a ftrong impulfe, with- 
out regard to confequences, to fay and do things 
which his cool reafon cannot juttify. This is 
the paffion of refentment. 

What has been faid of refentment may, eafily 
be applied to other natural defires and affections, 
When they are fo calm as neither to produce 
any feniible effects upon the body, nor to darken 
the underflanding and weaken the power of felf- 
command, they are not called paffions. But the 
fame principle, when it becomes fo violent as to 
oroduce thefe effects upon the body and upon 
the mind, is a paffion, or, as Cicero very proper- 
ly calls it, a perturbation. 

Vol. Ill- H It 


220 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6. 

It is evident, that this meaning of the word 
pajfion accords much better with its common ufe 
in language, than that which Mr Hume gives it. 
When he fays, that men ought to be govern- 
ed by their paffions only, and that the ufe of 
reafon is to be fubfervient to the paffions, this, 
at firft hearing, appears a mocking paradox, re- 
pugnant to good morals and to common fenfe j 
but, like moft other paradoxes, when explained 
according to his meaning, it is nothing but an 
abufe of words. 

For if we give the name of pajfion to every 

principle of action, in every degree, and give the 

name of reafon folely to the power of difcerning 

the fitnefs of means to ends, it will be true, that 

the ufe of reafon is- to be fubfervient to thepaffions. 

As I vv ifh to ufe words as agreeably as poffible 

to their common ufe in language, I fhall, by the 

word pajfion mean, not any principle of action 

diftindt from thofe deiires and affections before 

explained, but fiich a degree of vehemence in 

them, or in any of them, as is apt to produce 

thofe effects upon the body or upon the mind 

which have been above defcribed. 

Our appetites, even when vehement, are not, 
I think, very commonly called, paffions, yet they 
are capable of being enframed to rage, and in 
that cafe their effects arc very limilar to thofe of 
the paffions ; and what is faid of one may be ap- 
plied to both. 


of passion, 227 

Having explained what I mean by paffions, I 
think it unneceflary to enter into any enumera- 
tion of them, fince they differ, not in kind, but 
rather in degree, from the principles already 

The common divifion of the paffions into de~ 
fire and averfion, hope and fear, joy and grief, 
has been mentioned almofl by every author who 
has treated of them, and needs no explication. 
But we may obferve, that thefe are ingredients 
or modifications, not of the paffions only, but of 
every principle of action, animal and rational. 

All of them imply the delire of fome object ; 
and the delire of an object, cannot be without 
averfion to its contrary ; and, according as the 
object is prefent or abfcnt, delire and averfion 
will be variously modified into joy or grief, hope 
or fear. It is evident, that delire and averfion, 
joy and grief, hope and fear, may be either calm 
and fedatc, or vehement and pailionate. 

Palling thefe, therefore, as common to all prin- 
ciples of action, whether calm or vehement, I 
fhall only make fome obfervations on paffion in 
general, which tend to fhew its influence on hu- 
man conduct. 

Firjl, It is paffion that makes us liable to 
itrong temptations. Indeed, if we had no paf- 
fions, we mould hardly be under any temptation 
to wrong conduct. For, when we view things 
calmly, and free from any of the falfe colours 
which paffion throws upon them, we can hardly 

P a fail 

22-8 ESSAY HI. [CHAP. & 

fail to fee the right and the wrong, and to fee 
that the firft is more eligible than the laft. 

I believe a cool and deliberate preference of ill. 
to good is never the firft ftep into vice. 

" When the woman faw that the tree was 
" good for food, and that it was pleafant to the 
" eyes, and a tree to be defired to make one 
" wife, fhe took of the fruit thereof and did eat, 
" and gave alfo to her hufband with her and he 
" did eat ; and the eyes of them both were 
w opened." Inflamed defire had blinded the 
eyes of their understanding. 

Fix'd on the fruit me gaz'd, which to behold 
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the found- 
Yet rung of his perfuafive words impregn'd 
With reafon to her feeming, and with truth. 

Fair to the eye, inviting to the tafte, 

Of virtue to make wile, what hinders then 

To reach and feed at once both body and mind. Milt, 

Thus our firft parents were tempted to difo- 
bey their Maker, and all their pofterity are liable 
to temptation from the fame caufe. Paflion, or 
violent appetite, firft blinds the underftanding, 
and then perverts the will. 

It is paflion, therefore, and the vehement mo- 
tions of appetite, that makes us liable, in our pre- 
fent ftate, to ftrong temptations to deviate from 
our duty. This is the lot of human nature in 
the prefent period of our exiftence. 

Human virtue muft gather ftrength by flruggle 
and effort. As infants, before they can walk 
without [tumbling:, muft be expofed to many a 




Fall andbruife ; as wreftlers acquire their itrength 
and agility by many a combat and violent exer- 
tion; lb it is inthenobleit powers of human nature, 
as well as the meaneft, and even in virtue itfelf. 

It is not only made manifeft by temptation and 
trial, but by thefe means it acquires its ftrength 
and vigour. 

Menmuft acquire patience by fuffering, andfor-. 
titude by being expofed to danger, and every other 
virtue by fituations that put it to trial and exercife. 
. This, far any thing we know, may be necelTa- 
ry in the nature of things. It is certainly a law 
of nature with regard to man. 

Whether there may be orders of intelligent 
and moral creatures who never were fubject to 
any temptation, nor had their virtue put to any 
trial, we cannot without prefumption determine. 
But it is evident, that this neither is, nor ever was. 
the lot of .man, not even in the ftate of innocence. 

Sad, indeed, would be the condition of man, 
if the temptations to which, by the constitution of 
his nature, and by his circumftances, he is liable, 
were irreliftible. Such a ftate would not at all 
be a ftate of trial and difcipline. 

Our condition here is fuch, that, on the one 
hand, paffion often tempts and folicits us to do 
wrong ; on the other hand, reafon and confcience 
oppofe the dictates of paffion. The nefh lufteth 
againit the fpirit, and the fpirit againft the fleih. 
And upon the iffue of this conflicl, the charac- 
ter of the man and his fate depend. 

?3 If 

%$0 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6. 

If reafon "be victorious, his virtue is ftrengtti- 
ened ; he has the inward iatisfa&ion of having 
fought a good fight, in behalf of his duty, and 
the peace of his mind is preferved. 

If, on the other hand, pallion prevails againft 
the fenfe of duty, the man is conicious of ha- 
ving done what he ought not, and might not have 
done. His own heart condemns him, and he is 
guilty to himfelf. 

This conflict between the paffions of our ani- 
mal nature and the calm dictates of reafon and 
confcience, is not a theory invented to folve the 
phenomena of human conduct, it is a fact, of 
which every man who attends to his own con- 
duct is confcious. 

In the moll ancient philofophy, of which we 
have any account, 1 mean that of the Pythago- 
rean fchool, the mind of man was compared to 
a flate or commonwealth, in which there are va- 
rious powers, fome that ought to govern, and 
others that ought to be fubordinate, 

The good of the whole, which is the fupreme 
law in this, as in every commonwealth, requires 
that this fubordination be preferved, and that 
the governing powers have always the afcendant 
over the appetites and the paffions. All wife 
and good conduct conlilts in this. All folly and 
vice in the prevalence of paffion oyer the dic- 
tates of reafon. 

This philofophy was adopted by Plato ; and 
it is fo agreeable to what every man feels in him- 

felf f 

or passion, 231 

felf, that it mud always prevail with men who 

think without bias to a fyftem. 

The governing powers, of which thefe an- 
cient Philofophers fpeak, are the fame which I 

call the rational principles of aclion, and which 

I fhall have occalion to explain. I only men- 
tion them here, becaufe, without a regard to 
them, the influence of the paffions,, and their 
rank in our constitution, cannot be diitinctly 

Kfecond obfcrvation is, That the impulfe of 
paffion is not always to what is bad, but very 
often to what is good, and what our reafon ap- 
proves. There are fome paffions, as Dr Hut- 
cheson obferves, that are benevolent, as well as 
others that are felfim. 

The affections of refentment and emulation., 
with thofe that fpring from them, from their 
very nature, diiturb and difquiet the mind, 
though they be not carried beyond the bounds 
which reafon preicribes \ and therefore they are 
commonly called paffions, even in their mode- 
rate degrees. From a fimilar caufe, the bene- 
volent affections, which are placid in their na- 
ture, and are rarely carried beyond the bounds 
of reafon are very feldom called paffions. We 
do not give the name of paffion to benevolence, 
gratitude or friendfhip. Yet we mult except 
from this general rule, love between the fexes, 
which, as it commonly difcompofes the mind, 
and is not eafily kept within reafonable bounds, 
is always called a paffion. 

P a All 

232 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6, 

All our natural defires and affections are good 
and neceffary parts of our conflitution ; and paf- 
lion, being only a certain degree of vehemence 
jn thefe, its natural tendency is to good, and it 
is by accident that it leads us wrong. 

Paflion is very properly {aid to be blind. It 
looks not beyond the prefent gratification. It 
belongs to reafon to attend to the accidental cir- 
cumftances which may fometimes make that gra- 
tification improper or hurtful. When there is 
no impropriety in it, much more when it is our 
duty, paflion aids reafon, and gives additional 
force to its dictates. 

Sympathy with the diftrefTed may bring them 
a. charitable relief, when a calm fenfe of duty 
would be too weak to produce the effect. 

Objects, either good or ill, conceived to be 
very diftant, when they are confidered cooly ? 
have not that influence upon men which in rea- 
fon they ought to have. Imagination, like the 
eye, diminifheth its objecls in proportion to their 
diftance. The paffions of hope and fear mufl 
be raifed, in order to give fuch objecls their due 
magnitude in the imagination, and their due in- 
fluence upon our conduct. 

The dread of difgrace and of the civil magi- 
strate, and the apprehenfion of future punifh- 
ment, prevent many crimes, which bad men, 
without thefe restraints, would commit, and con- 
tribute greatly to the peace and good order of 



There is no bad action which fome paflion may 
not prevent ; nor is there any external good ac- 
tion, of which fome paffion may not be the main 
fpring ; and, it is very probable, that even the 
paflions of men, upon the whole, do more good 
to fociety than hurt. 

The ill that is done draws our attention more, 
and is imputed folely to human paflions. The 
good may have better motives, and charity leads 
us to think that it has ; but, as we fee not the 
heart, it is impoflible to determine what fnare 
men's paflions may have in its production. 

The laji obfervation is, That if we diftinguifh, 
in the effects of our paflions, thofe which are al- 
together involuntary, and without the fphere of 
our power, from the effects which may be pre- 
vented by an exertion, perhaps a great exertion, 
of felf-government y we fhall find the firft to be 
good and highly ufeful, and the laft only to be bad. 

Not to fpeak of the effects of moderate paf- 
lions upon the health of the body, to which fome 
agitation of this kind feems to be no lefs ufeful 
than ftorms and tempefts to the falubrity of the 
air ; every paflion naturally draws our attention 
to its object, and interefts us in it. 

The mind of man is naturally defultory, and 
when it has no interefling object in view, roves 
from one to another, without fixing its attention 
upon any one. A transient and carelefs glance 
is all that we beflow upon objects in which we 
take no concern. It requires a ftrong degree of 


£34 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6. 

curiofity, or fome more important paffion, to give 
us that intereft in an object which is necefiary to 
our giving attention to it. And, without atten- 
tion, we can form no true and liable judgment 
of any object. 

Take away the paffions, and it is not eafy to 
fay how great a £art of mankind would refemble 
thofe frivolous mortals, who never had a thought 
that engaged them in good earneft. 

It is not mere judgment or intellectual ability 
that enables a man to excel in any art or fcience. 
He muft have a love and admiration of it bor- 
dering upon enthufiafm, or a paffionate defire of 
the fame, or of fome other advantage to be got 
by that excellence. Without this, he would not 
undergo the labour and fatigue of his faculties, 
which it requires. So that, I think, we may 
with juftice allow no fmall merit to the paffions, 
even in the difcoveries and improvements of the 
arts and fciences. 

If the paffions for fame and distinction were 
extinguifhed, it would be difficult to find men 
ready to undertake the cares and toils of govern- 
ment ; and few perhaps would make t'he exer- 
tions neceffary to raife themfelves above the ig- 
noble vulgar. 

The involuntary ligns of the paffions and dif- 
pofitions of the mind, in the voice, features, and 
action, are a part of the human conftitution 
which deferves admiration. The (ignification of 


OF PA5SJ0N. 335 

thofe figns is known to all men by Nature, and 
previous to all experience. 

They are fo many openings into the fouls of 
our fellow-men, by which their fentiments be- 
come vifible to the eye. They are a natural lan- 
guage common to mankind, without which it 
would have been impoffible to have invented any 
artificial language. 

It is from the natural figns of the pafiions and 
difpofitions of the mind, that the human form de- 
rives its beauty ; that painting, poetry, and mufic, 
derive their expreffion ; that eloquence derives 
its greater! force, and converfation its greater! 

The pafiions, when kept within their proper 
bounds, give life and vigour to the whole man. 
Without them man would be a Aug. Wc fee 
what polifh and animation the paffion of love, 
when honourable and not unfuccefsful, gives to 
both fexes. 

The paffion for military glory raifes the brave 
commander in the day of battle, far above him- 
ielf, making his countenance to mine, and his 
eyes to fparkle. The glory of old England warms 
the heart even of the Britilh tar, and makes him 
defpife every danger. 

As to the bad effects of paffion, it rauft be ac- 
knowledged that it often gives a flrong impulfe 
to what is bad, and what a man condemns him- 
ielf for, as foon as it is done. But he muft be 
confeious that the impulfe, though ftrong, was 


236 JSSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

not irrefiftible, otherwife he could not condemn 

We allow that a iudden and violent paffion, 
into which a man is furprifed, alleviates a bad 
action ; but if it was irrefiftible, it would not on- 
ly alleviate, but totally exculpate, which it never 
does, either in the judgment of the man himfelf, 
or of others. 

To fum up all, paffion furnifhes a very ftrong 
inftance of the truth of the common maxim, That 
the corruption of the bell things is woril. 


Of Bifpofition. 

BY difpojition I mean a ftate of mind which, 
while it lafts, gives a tendency, or prone- 
nefs, to be moved by certain animal principles, 
rather than by others ; while, at another time, 
another ftate of mind, in the fame perfon, may- 
give the afcendant to other animal principles. 

It was before obferved, that it is a property 
of our appetites to be periodical, ceafing for a 
time, when fated by their objects, and returning 
regularly after certain periods. 

Even thofe principles which are not periodical, 
have their ebbs and flows occafionally, accord- 
ing to the prefent difpofition of the mind. 




Among fome of the principles of action there 
is a natural affinity, fo that one of the tribe na- 
turally difpofes to thofe which are allied to it. 

Such an affinity has been obferved by many 
good authors to be among all the benevolent af- 
fections. The exercife of one benevolent affec- 
tion gives a pronenefs to the exercife of others. 

There is a certain placid and agreeable tone 
of mind which is common to them all, which 
feems to be the bond of that connection and af- 
finity they have with one another. 

The malevolent affections have alio an affinity, 
and mutually difpofe to each other, by means, 
perhaps, of that difagreeable feeling common to 
them all, which makes the mind fore and uneafy. 
As far as we can trace the caufes of the dif- 
ferent difpofitions of the mind, they feem to be 
in fome cafes owing to thofe aflbciating powers 
of the principles of action, which have a natu- 
ral affinity, and are prone to keep company with 
one another ; fometimes to accidents of good or 
bad fortune, and fometimes, no doubt, the ftate 
of the body may have influence upon the difpa- 
fition of the mind. 

At one time the ftate of the mind, like a fe- 
rene unclouded iky, mews every thing in the 
moll agreeable light. Then a man is prone to 
benevolence, compaffion, and every kind affec 
tion ; unfufpicious, not eafily provoked. 

The Poets have obferved that men have theii 
moll: a tempera fa ridi f . r when they are avcrfe from 


238 ESSAY HI. [CHAP. 7. 


faying or doing a harfh thing ; and artful men 
watch thefe occafions, and know how to improve 
them to promote their ends. 

This difpofition, I think, we commonly call 
good humour, of which, in the fair fex, Mr Popr 

Good humour only teaches charms to laft, 

Still makes new conquefls, and maintains the part. 

There is no difpofition more comfortable to 
the perfon himfelf, or more agreeable to others, 
than good humour. It is to the mind, what good 
health is to the body, putting a man in the ca- 
pacity of enjoying every thing that is agreeable 
in life, and of ufing every faculty without clog 
or impediment. It difpofes to contentment with 
our lot, to benevolence to all men, to fympathy 
with the diftreffed. It prefents every object in 
the moft favourable light, and difpofes us to avoid 
giving or taking offence. 

This happy difpofition feems to be the natu- 
ral fruit of a good ccnfcicnce, and a firm belief 
that the world is under a wife and benevolent 
adminiftration \ and, when it fprings from this 
root, it is an habitual fentiment of piety. 

Good humour is likewife apt to be produced 
by happy fuccefs, or unexpected good fortune. 
Joy and hope are favourable to it \ vexation and 
difapointment are unfavourable. 

The only danger of this difpofition feems to 
be, That if we are not upon our guard, it may 



degenerate into levity, and ihdifpofe us to a pro- 
per degree of caution, and of attention to the 
future confequences of our actions. 

There is a difpofition oppofite to good humour 
which we call bad humour, of which the tenden- 
cy is directly contrary, and therefore its influence 
is as malignant, as that of the other is falutary. 

Bad humour alone is fufficient to make a man 
unhappy ; it tinges every object with its own 
difmal colour ; and, like a part that is galled, is 
hurt by every thing that touches it. It takes 
offence where none was meant, and difpofes to 
difcontent, jealoufy, envy, and, in general, to 

Another couple of oppofite difpoiitions are 
elation of mind, on the one hand, and deprefjion,, 
on the other. 

Thefe contrary difpoiitions are both of an am- 
biguous nature 5 their influence may be good or 
bad, according as they are grounded on true or 
falfe opinion, and according as they are regulated. 
That elation of mind which arifes from a juft 
fcnfe of the dignity of our nature, and of the 
powers and faculties with which God hath en- 
dowed U9, is true magnanimity, and difpofes a 
man to the nobleft virtues, and the moft heroic 
actions and enterprifes. 

There is alfo an elation of mind, which arifes 
from a confcioufnefs of our worth and integrity, 
fuch as Job felt, when he faid, " Till I die, I 
" will not remove my integrity from me. My 

" righteoufnefr 


" righteoufnefs I hold fait, and will not let it 
" go ; my heart fhall not reproach me while I 
" live." This may be called the pride of virtue j 
but it is a noble pride. It makes a man difdain 
to do what is bale or mean. This is the true 
fenfe of honour- 
But there is an elation of mind arifing from a 
vain opinion of our having talents, or worth, 
which we have not ; or from putting an undue 
value upon any of our endowments of mind, body, 
or fortune. This is pride, the parent of many 
odious vices ; fuch as arrogance, undue contempt 
of others, felfvpartiality, and vicious felf-love. 

The oppofite difpofition to elation of mind, is 
depreffion, which alfo has good or bad effects, 
according as it is grounded upon true or falfe opi- 

A juft fenfe of the weaknefs and imperfections 
of human nature, and of our own perfonal faults 
and defects, is true humility. It is not to think 
of our f elves above what we ought to think ; a moll 
ialutary and amiable difpofition ; of great price 
in the fight of God and man. Nor is it incon- 
fiftent with real magnanimity and greatnefs of 
foul. They may dwell together with great ad- 
vantage and ornament to both, and be faithful 
monitors againft the extremes to which each ha^ 
the greateit tendency. 

But there is a depreffion of mind which is the 
oppofite to magnanimity, which debilitates. the 

. fprin^ 


fprings of action, and freezes every fentiment that 
fhould lead to any noble exertion or enterprife. 

Suppofe a man to have no belief of a good ad- 
miniftration of the world, no conception of the 
dignity of virtue, no hope of happinefs in ano- 
ther Hate. Suppofe him, at the fame time, in a 
ftate of extreme poverty and dependence, and 
that he has no higher aim than to fupply his 
bodily wants, or to miniiler to the pleafure, or 
flatter the pride, of fome being as worthlefs as 
himfelf. Is not the foul of fuch a man deprefTed 
as much as his body or his fortune ? And, if 
fortune fhould fmiie upon him while he retains 
the fame fentiments, he is only the flave of for- 
tune. His mind is depreiTed to the ftate of a 
brute ; and his human faculties ferve only to 
make him feel that depreffion. 

Depreffion of mind may be owing to melan- 
choly, a diftemper of mind which proceeds from 
the ftate of the body, which throws a difmal 
gloom upon every object of thought, cuts all the 
linews of action, and often gives rife to ftrange 
and abfurd opinions in religion, or in other in- 
terefting matters. Yet, where there is real worth 
at bottom, fome rays of it will break forth even 
in this deprefTed ftate of mind. 

A remarkable inftance of this was exhibited 
in Mr Simon Brown, a diffenting clergyman in 
England, who, by melancholy, was led into the 
belief that his rational foul had gradually de- 
cayed within him, and at laft was totally extinct. 

Vol, III, Q^ From 

24'2 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

From this belief he gave up his minifterial func- 
tion, and would not even join with others in any 
act of worfhip, conceiving it to be a profanation 
to worfhip God without a foul. 

In this difmal ftate of mind, he wrote an ex- 
cellent defence of the Chriflian religion, againft 
Tindal's Chrijtianity as old as the Creation. To 
the book he prefixed an epiftle dedicatory to 
Queen Caroline, wherein he mentions, " That 
'} he was once a man, but, by the immediate 
" hand of God, for his fins, his very thinking 
" fubftance has, for more than feven years, been 
" continually waiting away, till it is wholly pe- 
" rimed out of 'him, if it be not utterly come to 
" nothing," And, having heard of her Majefty's 
eminent piety, he begs the aid of her prayers. 

The book was publiflied after his death with- 
out the dedication^ which, however, having been 
preferved in manufcript, was afterwards printed 
in the Adventurer, No. 88. 

Thus this good man, when he believed that 
lie had no foul, fhewed a moll generous and dif- 
interefted concern for thofe who had fouls. 

As depreffion of mind may produce ftrange 
opinions, efpecially in the cafe of melancholy, 
fo our opinions may have a very confiderable in- 
fluence, either to elevate or to deprefs the mind, 
even where there is no melancholy. 

Suppofe, on one hand, a man who believes 
that he is deftined to an eternal exigence ; that 
he who made, and who governs the world, ma- 



keth account of him, and hath furnifhed him 
with the means of attaining a high degree of per- 
fection and glory. With this man compare, on 
the other hand, the man who believes nothing at 
all, or who believes that his exiftence is only the 
play of atoms, and that, after he hath been 
tolled about by blind fortune for a few years, he 
fhall again return to nothing. Can it be doubted, 
that the former opinion leads to elevation and 
greatnefs of mind, the latter to meannefs and de» 
preffion ? 


Of Opinion. 

HEN we come to explain the rational 
principles of action, it will appear, that 
opinion is an eiTential ingredient in them. Here 
we are only to conlider its influence upon the 
animal principles. Some of thofe I have rank- 
ed in that clafs cannot, 1 think, exift in the hu- 
man mind without it. 

Gratitude fuppofes the opinion of a favour 
done or intended ; refentment the opinion of an 
injury; efleem the opinion of merit ; the paf- 
fion of love fuppofes the opinion of uncommon 
merit and perfection in its object. 

Although natural affection to parents, children, 
and near relations, is not grounded on the opi- 

Q 2 nion 

244 ESSAY III. [chap. &. 

nion of their merit, it is much increafed by that 
conlideration. So is every benevolent affection. 
On the contrary, real malevolence can hardly 
exift without the opinion of demerit in the ob- 

There is no natural deiire or averfion, which 
may not be reftrained by opinion. Thus, if a 
man were athirft, and had a ftrong defire to 
drink, the opinion that there was poifon in the 
cup would make him forbear. 

It is evident, that hope and fear, which every 
natural deiire or affection may create, depend 
upon the opinion of future good or ill. 

Thus it appears, that our paffions, our difpoli- 
tions, and our opinions, have great influence up- 
on our animal principles, to ftrengthen or weak- 
en, to excite or reltrain them ; and, by that 
means, have great influence upon human actions 
and characters. 

That brute-animals have both paffions and 
difpolitions limilar, in many refpects, to thofe of 
men, cannot be doubted. Whether they have 
opinions, is not fo clear. I think they have not, 
in the proper fenfe of the word. But, waving 
all difpute upon this point, it will be granted, 
that opinion in men has a much wider field than 
in brutes. No man will fay, that they have, 
fyflems of theology, morals, jurifprudence or 
politics ; or that they can reafon from the laws 
of nature, in mechanics, medicine, or agricul- 



They feel the evils or enjoyments that are 
prefent ; probably they imagine thofe which ex- 
perience has aflbciated with what they feel. But 
they can take no large profpect either of the paft 
or of the future, nor fee through a train of con- 

A dog may be deterred from eating what is 
before him, by the fear of immediate punifn- 
ment, which he has felt on like occafions ; but 
he is never deterred by the confideration of 
health, or of any diftant good. 

I have been credibly informed, that a mon- 
key, having once been intoxicated with llrong 
-drink, in confequence of which it burnt its foot 
in the fire, and had a fevere fit of ficknefs, could 
never after be induced to drink any thing but 
pure water. I believe this is the utmoft pitch 
which the faculties of brutes can reach. 

From the influence of opinion upon the con- 
dud of mankind we may learn, that it is one of 
the chief inftruments to be ufed in the difcip- 
line and government of men. 

All men, in the early part of life, rauft be un- 
der the difcipline and government of parents 
and tutors. Men, who live in fociety, mull be 
under the government of laws and magiflrates, 
through life. The government of men is un- 
doubtedly one of the noblelt exertions of human 
power. And it is of great importance, that 
thofe who have any fhare, either in domeflic or 
Qj3 civil 

246 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

civil government, mould know the nature of man, 
and how he is to be trained and governed. 

Of all inftru.nents of government, opinion is 
the fweeteft, and the moll agreeable to the na- 
ture of man. Obedience that flows from opi- 
nion, is real freedom, which every man defires, 
That which is extorted by fear of punifhment, 
is flavery ; a yoke which is always galling, and 
which every man will ihake off when it is in his 

The opinions of the bulk of mankind have 
always been, and will always be, what they are 
taught by thofe whom they efleem to be wife 
and good \ and, therefore, in a considerable de- 
gree, are in the power of thofe who govern them. 
Man, uncorrupted by bad habits and bad opi- 
nions, is of all animals the moil tradable \ cor- 
rupted by thefe, he is of all animals the moll 

I apprehend, therefore, that, if ever civil go- 
vernment fhall be brought to perfection, it mufr 
be the principal care of the Hate to make good 
citizens by proper education, and proper in- 
ftruelion and difcipline. 

The moil ufeful part of medicine is that which 
ilrengthens the conflitution, and prevents difeafes 
by good regimen ; -the reft is fomewhat like 
propping a ruinous fabric at great expence, and 
to little purpofe. The art of government is the 
medicine of the mind, and the moll ufeful part, 
of it is that which prevents crimes and bad ha- 


bits, and trains men to virtue and good habits,, 
by proper education and difcipline. 

The end of government is to make the fociety 
happy, which can only be done by making it 
good and virtuous. 

That men in general will be good or bad 
members of fociety, according to the education 
and difcipline by which they have been trained, 
experience may convince us. 

The prefent age has made great advances in 
the art of training men to military duty, it will 
not be faid, that thofe who enter into that fervice 
are more tradable than their fellow- fubj eels of 
other profeffions. And I know not why it mould 
be thought impoiiible to train men to equal per- 
fection in the other duties of good citizens. 

What an immenfe difference is there, for the 
purpofe of war, between an army properly 
trained, and a militia haftily drawn out of the 
multitude ? What mould hinder us from think- 
ing, that, for every purpofe of civil government, 
there may be a like difference between a civil 
fociety properly trained to virtue, good habits 
and right fentiments, and thofe civil focieties 
which we now behold ? — But I fear I fhall be 
thought to digrefs from my fubj eel into Utopian 

To make an end of what I have to fay upon 
the animal principles of action, we may take a 
complex view of their effect in life, by fuppoling 
a being actuated by principles of no higher or- 

Q..4 der » 

248 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

tier, to have no confcience or fenfe of duty, only- 
let us allow him that fuperiority of understand- 
ing, and that power of felf- government which 
man actually has. Let us fpeculate a little upon 
this imaginary being, and confider what conduct 
and tenor of action might be expected from him. 

It is evident he would be a very different 
animal from a brute, and perhaps not very dif- 
ferent, in appearance, from what a great part of 
mankind is. 

He would be capable of confidering the diftant 
confequences of his actions, and of reftraining or 
indulging his appetites, deiires and affections, 
from the confideration of diftant good or evil. 

He would be capable of choofing fome main 
end of his life, and planning fuch a rule of con- 
duct as appeared moil fubfervient to it. Of this 
we have reafon to think no brute is capable. 

We can perhaps conceive fuch a balance of 
the animal principles of action, as, with very 
little felf government, might make a man to be 
a good member of fociety, a good companion, 
and to have many amiable qualities. 

The balance of our animal principles, I think, 
conftitutes what we call a man's natural temper ; 
which may be good or bad, with regard to his 

A man in whom the benevolent affections, 
the defire of efteem and good humour, are na- 
turally prevalent, who is of a calm and difpaf- 
fionate nature, who has the good fortune to live 



with good men, and affociate with good com- 
panions, may behave properly with little effort. 

His natural temper leads him, in moft cafes, 
to do what virtue requires. And if he happens 
not to be expofed to thofe trying fituations, in 
which virtue croffes the natural bent of his tem- 
per, he has no great temptation to act amifs. 

But perhaps a happy natural temper, joined 
with fuch a happy fituation, is more ideal than 
real, though no doubt fome men make nearer 
approaches to it than others. 

The temper and the fituation of men is com- 
monly fuch, that the animal principles alone, 
without felf-government, would never produce 
any regular and confiftent train of conduct. 

One principle croffes another. Without felf- 
government, that which is flrongeft at the time 
will prevail. And that which is weakeft at one 
time may, from paffion, from a change of dif- 
pofition or of fortune, become flrongeft at an- 
other time. 

Every natural appetite, defire, and affection, 
has its own prefent gratification only in view. 
A man, therefore, who has no other leader than 
thefe, would be like a fhip in the ocean without 
hands, which cannot be faid to be deftined to 
any port. He would have no character at all, 
but be benevolent or fpiteful, pleafant or mo- 
rofe, honeft or difhoneft, as the prefent wind of 
paffion or tide of humour moved him. 


250 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

Every man who purfues an end, be it good or 
bad, muft be active when he is difpofed to be 
indolent ; he muft rein every paflion and appe- 
tite that would lead him out of his road. 

Mortification and felf-denial are found not in 
the paths of virtue only ; they are common to 
every road that leads to an end, be it ambition, 
or avarice, or even pleafure itfelf. Every man 
who maintains an uniform and confiftent cha- 
racter, muft fweat and toil, and often ftruggle 
with his prefent inclination. 

Yet thofe who fteadily purfue fome end in life, 
though they muft often reftrain their ftrongeft 
deiires, and praclife much felf-denial, have, up- 
on the whole, more enjoyment than thofe who 
have no end at all, but to gratify the prefent 
prevailing inclination. 

A dog that is made for the chace, cannot en- 
joy the happinefs of a dog without that exercife. 
Keep him within doors, feed him with the moil 
delicious fare, gave him all the pleafures his na- 
ture is capable of, he foon becomes a dull, tor- 
pid, unhappy animal. No enjoyment can fup- 
ply the want of that employment which nature 
has made his chief good. Let him hunt, and 
neither pain nor hunger nor fatigue feem to be 
evils. Deprived of this exercife, he can relilli 
nothing. Life itfelf becomes burdenfome. 

It is no difparagement to the human kind to 
fay, that man, as well as the dog, is made for 
hunting, and cannot be happy but in fome vi- 


gorous purfuit. He has indeed nobler game to 
purfue than the dog, but he muff have fome 
purfuit, otherwife life ftagnates, all the faculties 
are benumbed, the fpirits flag, and his exiftence 
becomes an unfurmountable burden. 

Even the mere foxhunter, who has no higher 
purfuit than his dogs, has more enjoyment than 
he who has no purfuit at all. He has an end in 
view; and this invigorates his fpirits, makes him 
defpife pleafure, and bear cold, hunger and fa- 
tigue, as if they were no evils. 

Manet fub Jove frigido 
Venator, tenerse conjugis immemor ; 
Seu vifa eft catulis cerva fidelibus 
Seu rupit teretes Marfus aper plagas. 


Of the Rational Principles of Action, 

There are Rational Principles of Action in Man. 

MEchanical principles of aclion produce 
their effed without any will or inten- 
tion on our part. We may, by a voluntary ef- 
fort, hinder the effect ; but if it be not hindered 
by will and effort, it is produced without them. 



Animal principles of action require intention 
and will in their operation, but not judgment. 
They are, by ancient moralifts, very properly 
called cceccE cupidines, blind defires. 

Having treated of thefe two clafTes, I proceed 
to the third, the rational principles of action in 
man - y which have that name, becaufe they can 
have no exiftence in beings not endowed with 
reafon, and, in all their exertions, require, not 
only intention and will, but judgment or reafon. 

That talent which we call reafon, by which 
men that are adult and of a found mind, are di- 
llinguilhed from brutes, idiots, and infants, has, 
in all ages, among the learned and unlearned, 
been conceived to have two offices, to regulate our 
belief, and to regulate our actions and conduct. 

Whatever we believe, we think agreeable to 
reafon, and, on that account, yield our aflent to 
it. Whatever we difbelieve, we think contrary 
to reafon, and, on that account, diifent from it. 
Reafon therefore is allowed to be the principle 
by which our belief and opinions ought to be 

But reafon has been no lefs univerfally con- 
ceived to be a principle, by which our actions 
ought to be regulated. 

To act reafonably, is a phrafe no lefs common 
in all languages, than to judge reafonably. We 
immediately approve of a man's conduct, when 
it appears that he had good reafon for what he 



did. And every action we difapprove, we think 
unreafonable, or contrary to reaibn. 

A way of fpeaking fo univerfal among men, 
common to the learned and the unlearned in all 
nations, and in all languages, muft have a mean- 
ing. To fuppofe it to be words without mean- 
ing, is to treat, with undue contempt, the com- 
mon fenfe of mankind. 

Suppofing this>phrafe to have a meaning, we 
may coniider in what way reafon may ferve to 
regulate human conduct, fo that fome actions of 
men are to be denominated reafonable, and others 

I take it for granted, that there can be no ex- 
ercife of reafon without judgment, nor, on the 
other hand, any judgment of things abftract and 
general, without fome degree of reafon. 

If, therefore, there be any principles of action 
in the human conftitution, which, in their na- 
ture, necefTarily imply fuch judgment, they are 
the principles which we may call rational, to di- 
flinguifh them from animal principles, which 
imply defire and will, but not judgment. 

Every deliberate human action mull be done 
either as the means, or as an end ; as the means 
to fome end, to which it is fubfervient, or as an 
end, for its own fake, and without regard to anv 
thing beyond it. 

That it is a part of the office of reafon to de- 
termine, what are the proper means to any end 
'.vhich we defire. no man ever denied. But fome 



Philofophers, particularly Mr Hume, think that 
it is no part of the office of reafon to determine 
the ends we ought to purfue, or the preference 
due to one end above another. This, he thinks, 
is not the office of reafon, but of tafte or feeling. 

If this be fo, reafon cannot, with any proprie- 
ty, be called a principle of action. Its office can 
only be to minifter to the principles of action, by 
difcovering the means of their gratification. Ac- 
cordingly Mr Hume maintains, that reafon is no 
principle of action ; but that it is, and ought to 
be, the fervant of the paffions. 

I fhall endeavour to mew, that, among the va- 
rious ends of human actions, there are fome, of 
which, without reafon, we could not even form 
a conception ; and that, as foon as they are con- 
ceived, a regard to them is, by our conffcitution, 
not only a principle of action, but a leading and 
governing principle, to which all our animal 
principles are fubor h.iate, and to which they 
ought to be fubject. 

Thefe I fhall call rational principles; becaufe 
they can exift only in beings endowed with rea- 
fon, and becaufe, to act from theie principles, is 
what has always been meant by acting according 
to reafon. 

The ends of human actions I have in view, 
are two, to wit, What is good for us upon the 
whole, and what appears to be our duty. They 
are very ftrictly connected, lead to the fame 
courfe of conduct, and co-operate with each 

other ; 


other ; and, on that account, have commonly 
been comprehended under one name, that of 
reafon. But as they may be disjoined, and are 
really diftinct principles of action, I mail confi- 
der them feparately. 


Of Regard to our Good on the Whole. 

IT will not be denied that man, when he comes 
to years of underftanding, is led by his ra- 
tional nature, to form the conception of what is 
good for him upon the whole. 

How early in life this general notion of good 
enters into the mind, I cannot pretend to deter- 
mine. It is one of the moll general and abftract 
notions we form. 

Whatever makes a man more happy, or more 
perfect, is good, and is an object of delire as foon 
as we are capable of forming the conception of 
it. The contrary is ill, and is an object of aver- 

In the firft part of life we have many enjoy- 
ments of various kinds ; but very fimilar to thofc 
of brute-animals. 

They confift in the exercife of our fenfes and 
powers of motion, the gratification of our appe- 

256 ESSAY III. [dHAP. 2, 

tites, and the exertions of our kind afFe&ions. 
Thefe are chequered with many evils of pain, 
and fear, and difappointment, and fympathy with 
the fufFering of others. 

But the goods and evils of this period of life, 
are of fhort duration, and foon forgot. The 
mind being regardlefs of the paft, and unconcern- 
ed about the future, we have then no other mea- 
fure of good but the prefent defire ; no other 
meafure of evil but the prefent averfion. 

Every animal defire has fome particular and 
prefent object, and looks not beyond that object 
to its confequences, or to the connections it may 
have with other things. 

The prefent object, which is molt attractive, 
or excites the ftrongeft defire, determines the 
choice, whatever be its confequences. The pre- 
fent evil that preffes moft, is avoided, though it 
fhould be the road to a greater good to come, or 
the only way to efcape a greater evil. This 
is the way in which brutes act, and the way in 
which men muft act, till they come to the ufe of 

As we grow up to underftanding, we extend 
our view both forward and backward. We re- 
flect upon what is pall, and, by the lamp of ex- 
perience, difcern what will probably happen in 
time to come. We find that many things which 
we eagerly defired, were too dearly purchafed, 
and that things grievous for the prefent, like nau- 
feous medicines, may be falutary in the ifiue. 



We learn to obferve the connections of things, 
and the confequences of our actions ; and, taking 
an extended view of our exiftence, pad, prefent^ 
and future, we correct our firft notions of good 
and ill, and form the conception of what is good 
or ill upon the whole ; which mull be eftimated, 
not from the prefent feeling, or from the prefent 
animal defire or averfion, but from a due con- 
iideration of its confequences, certain or probable, 
during the whole of our exiftence. 

That which, taken with all its difcoverable 
connections and confequences, brings more good 
than ill, I call good upon the whole. 

That brute- animals have any conception of 
this good, I fee no reafon to believe. And it is 
evident, that man cannot have the conception of 
it, till reafon be fo far advanced, that he can fe- 
rioufty reflect upon the pall, and take a proipecl 
of the future part of his exiftence. 

It appears therefore, that the very conception 
of what is good- or ill for us upon the whole, is 
the offspring of reafon, and can be only in beings 
endowed with reafon. And if this conception 
give rife to any principle of action in rnan,which 
he had not before, that principle may very pro- 
perly be called a rational principle of action. 

I pretend not in this to fay any thing that is 
new, but what reafon fuggefted to thofe who 
firft turned their attention to the phiiofophy of 
morals. I beg leave to quote one paiTage from 

Vol, III. R Cicero, 


Cicero, in his firft book of Offices; wherein, 
with his ufual elegance, he exprelTes the fub- 
ilance of what I have faid. And there is good 
reafon to think that Cicero borrowed it from 
Panjetius, a Greek Philofopher, whofe books of 
Offices are loft. •* 

" Sed inter hominem et belluam hoc maxime 
* l intereft, quod hasc tantum quantum fenfu mo- 
" vetur, ad id folum quod adeft, quodque prsefens 
" eft fe accommodate paululum admodum fen- 
" tiens praeteritum aut futurum : Homo autem 
" quoniam rationis eft particeps, per quam con- 
" fequentia cernit, caufas rerum videt, earumque 
" praegreffus- et quali anteceffiones non ignorat ; 
" fimilitudines comparat, et rebus praeientibus 
" adjungit atque annectit futuras ; facile totius 
" vitce curfum videt, ad eamque degendam pre- 
i( parat res neceffarias." 

I obferve, in the next place,. That as foon as we 
have the conception of what is good or ill for us 
upon the whole, we are led, by our conftitution, 
to feek the good and .avoid the ill ; and this be- 
comes not only a principle of action, but a lead- 
ing or governing principle, to which all our ani- 
mal principles ought to be fubordinate. 

I am very apt to think, with Dr Price, that., 
in intelligent beings, the defire of what is good, 
and averfion to what is ill, is neceflarily connec- 
ted with the intelligent nature ; and that it is a 
contradiction to fuppofe fuch a being to have the 
notion of good without the defire of it, or the 



notion of ill without averfion to it. Perhaps 
there may be other necefTary connections between 
underftanding and the beft principles of action, 
which our faculties are too weak to difcern. 
That they are neceffarily connected in him who 
is perfect in underftanding, we have good reafon 
to believe. 

To prefer a greater good, though diftant, to a 
lefs that is prefent ; to choofe a prefent evil, in or- 
der to avoid a greater evil, or to obtain a greater 
good, is, in the judgment of all men, wife and 
reafonable conduct •, and, when a man acts the 
contrary part, all men will acknowledge, that he 
acts foolifhly and unreafonably. Nor will it be de- 
nied, that, in innumerable cafes in common life, 
our animal principles draw us one way, while a 
regard to what is good on the whole, draws us 
the contrary way. Thus the flefh lufteth againft 
the fpirit, and the fpirit againft the flelh, and 
thefe two are contrary. That in every conflict 
of this kind the rational principle ought to pre- 
vail, and the animal to be fubordinate, is too 
evident to need, or to admit of proof. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that to purfue what 
is good upon the whole, and to avoid what is ill 
upon the whole, is a rational principle of action, 
grounded upon our conftitution as reafonable 

It appears that it is not without juft caufe, 

that this principle of action has in all ages been 

calleu reafon, in oppofition to our animal prin- 

R 2 cipies. 

160 ESSAY HI. [CHAP, 2, 

ciples, which in common language are called by 
the general name of the paffions. 

The firft net only operates in a calm and 
cool manner, like reafon, but implies real judg- 
ment in all its operations. The fecond, to wit, 
the paffions, are blind defires, of fome particu- 
lar objeel, without 'any judgment or conlidera- 
tion, whether it be good for us upon the whole, 
or ill. 

It appears alfo, that the fundamental maxim 
of prudence and of all good morals, That the 
paffions ought, in all cafes, to be under the do- 
minion of reafon, is not only felf-evident, when 
rightly underftood, but is expreffed according to 
the common ufe and propriety of language. 

The contrary maxim maintained by Mr 
Hume, can only be defended by a grofs and pal- 
pable abufe of words. For, in order to defend 
it, he muft include under the paffions, that very 
principle which has always, in all languages, 
been called reafon, and never was, in any lan- 
guage, called a pajjicn. And from the meaning 
of the word reafon he mud exclude the molt im- 
portant part of it, by which we are able to dif- 
cern and to purfue what appears to be good 
upon the whole. And thus, including the molt 
important part of reafon under paffion, and ma- 
king the leaft important part of reafon to be the 
whole, he defends his favourite paradox, That 
reafon is, and ought to be. the fervant of the 



To judge of what is true or falfe in fpecula- 
tive points, is the office of fpeculative reafon ; 
and to judge of what is good or ill for us upon 
the whole, is the office of practical reafon. Of 
true and falfe there are no degrees ; but of good 
and ill there are many degrees, and many kinds; 
and men are very apt to form erroneous opinions 
concerning them ; milled by their paffions, by 
the authority of the multitude, and by other 

Wife men, in all ages, have reckoned it a chief 
point of wifdom, to make a right eftimate of the 
goods and evils of life. They diave laboured 
to difcover the errors of the multitude on this 
important point, and to warn others againft them. 

The ancient moralifts, though divided into 
feels, all agreed in this, That opinion has a 
mighty influence upon what we commonly ac- 
count the goods and ills of life, to alleviate or 
to aggravate them. 

The Stoics carried this fo far, as to conclude 
that they all depend on opinion. Uccvra 'TvoM^vs 
was a favourite maxim with them. 

We fee, indeed, that the fame ftation or con- 
dition of life, which makes one man happy, 
makes another miferable, and to a third is per- 
fectly indifferent. We fee men miferable through 
life, from vain fears, and anxious deiires, ground- 
ed folely upon wrong opinions. We fee -men 
wear tbemfelves out with toilfome days, and 
fkeplefs nights, in purfuit of fome object which 

R 3 they 

26-2, Z S S A Y III. [CHAP. %. 

they never attain ; or which, when attained, gives 
little fatisfaftion, perhaps real difguft. 

The evils of life, which every man muft feel, 
have a very different effect upon different men. 
What finks one into defpair and abfolute mifery, 
roufes the virtue and magnanimity of another, 
who bears it as the lot of humanity, and as the 
diicipline of a wife and merciful Father in hea- 
ven. He rifes fuperior to adverfity, and is made 
wifer and better by it, and confequently happier. 

It is therefore of the lafl importance, in the 
conduct of life, to have juft opinions with refpeft 
to good and evil ; and furely it is the province 
of reafon to correct wrong opinions, and to lead 
us into thofe that are juft and true. 

It is true indeed, that men's paflions and"ap- 
petites, too often, draw them to aft contrary to 
their cool judgment and opinion of what is heft 
for them. Video meliora proboque, deteriora, fe- 
quor, is the cafe in every wilful deviation from 
our true intereft and our duty. 

When this is the cafe, the man is felf-condemn- 
ed, he fees that he acted the part of a brute, when 
he ought to have acted the part of a man. He is 
convinced that reafon ought to have reftrained 
his paftion, and not to have given the rein to it. 

W T hen he feels the bad effects of his conduct, 
lie imputes them to himfelf, and would be flung 
with remorfe for his folly, though he had no ac- 
count to make to a fuperior Being. He has fin- 


ned againft himfelf, and brought upon his own 
head the punifnment which his folly deferved. 

From this we may fee, that t :s rational prin- 
ciple of a regard to our good upon the whole, 
gives us the conception of a right and* a wrong 
in human conduct, at lead of a wife and afooli/b. 
It proJuces a kind of felf-approbation, when the 
paflions and appetites are kept in their due fub- 
jection to it ; and a kind of remorfe and com- 
punction, when it yields to them. 

In thefe refpects, this principle is fo fimilar to 
the moral principle, or confcience, and fo inter- 
woven with it, that both are commonly compre- 
hended under the name of reafon. This limila- 
rity led many of the ancient Philofophers, and 
fome among the moderns, to refolve confcience, 
or a fenfe of duty, entirely into a regard to what 
is good for us upon the whole. 

That they are diftinct principles of action, 
though both lead to the fame conduct in life, I 
mail have occafion to fnew, when I come to treat 
of confcience. 


The Tendency of this Principle. 

IT has been the opinion of the wifefl men, in 
all ages, that this principle, of a regard to our 
good upon the whole, in a man duly enlightened, 
Jcad.s to the practice of every virtue. 

R 4 This 

^64 • ESSAY III. [CHAP. 3. 

This was acknowledged, even by Epicurus ; 
and the bed moraliits among the ancients derived 
all the virtues from this principle. For, among 
them, the whole of morals was reduced to this 
queftion, What is the greater!: good ? Or what 
courfe of conduct is bell for us Upon the whole ? 

In order to refolve this queftion, they divided 
goods into three claiTes, the goods of the body ; 
the goods of fortune, or external goods, and the 
goods of the mind ; meaning, by the laft, wif- 
dom and virtue. 

Comparing thefe different claiTes of goods, they 
mewed, with convincing evidence, that the good3 
of the mind are, in many refpecfts, fuperior to 
thofe of the body and of fortune, not only as 
they have more dignity, are more durable, and 
lei's expofed to the ftrokes of fortune, but chief- 
ly as they are the only goods in our power, and 
which depend wholly on our conduct. 

Epicurus himfelf maintained, that the wife 
man may be happy in the tranquillity of his 
mind, even when racked with pain, and ftrug- 
gling with adveruty. 

They obferved very juftly, that the goods of 
fortune, and even thole of the body, depend 
much on opinion ; and that, when our opinion 
of them is duly corrected by reafon, we fhaU 
find thism of frnall value in themfelves. 

How can he be happy who places his happi- 
nefs in things which it is not in his power to at- 
tain, or in things fr«m which, when attained, a 



fit of ficknefs, or a ftroke of fortune, may tear 
him afunder. 

The value we put upon things, and our un- 
ealinefs in the want.of them, depend upon the 
itrength of our defires ; correct the defire, and 
the uneafinefs ceafes. 

The fear of the evils of body and of fortune, 
is often a greater evil than the things we fear. 
As the wife man moderates his defires by tem- 
perance, fo, to real or imaginary dangers, he op- 
pofes the fhield of fortitude and magnanimity, 
which raifes him above himfelf, and makes him 
happy and triumphant in thofe moments where- 
in others are moft miferable. 

Thefe oracles of reafon led the Stoics fo far 
as to maintain, That all defires and fears, with 
regard to things not in our power, ought to be 
totally eradicated ; that virtue is the only good ; 
that what we call the goods of the body and of 
fortune, are really things indifferent, which may, 
according to circurnftances, prove good or ill, 
and therefore have no intrinfic goodnefs in them- 
felves ; that our fole bufinefs ought to be, to act. 
our part well, and to do what is right, without 
the leaft concern about things not in our power, 
which we ought, with perfect acquiefcence, to 
leave to the care of him who governs the world. 

This noble and elevated conception of human 
vvifdom and duty was taught by Socrates, free 
from the extravagancies which the Stoics after- 
wards joined with it. Wc fee it in the Alcibi- 


266 ESSAY in. [chap. 3. 

ades of Plato ; from which Juvenal hath ta- 
ken it in his tenth fatire, and adorned it with the 
graces of poetry. 

Omnibus in terris quae font a gadibus ufque 
A^roram et Gangen, pauci dignofcere poflunt 
Vera bona, atque illis multum diverfa, remota 
Erroris nebula. Quid enim ratione timemus? 
Aut cupimus ? Quid tarn dextra. pede concupis ut te 
Conatus nan pceniteat, votique perafli ? 
Nil ergo optabunt homines ? Si coniilium vis, 
Permittes ipfis expendere numinibus, quid 
Conveniat nobis, rebufque fit utile noftris. 
Nam pro jucundis aptiffima quseque dabunt Dii, 
Charior eft illis homo quam fibi. Nos animorum 
Impulfu, et caeca magnaque cupidine duc~H, 
Conjugium petimus, partumque uxoris ; at illis 
Notum qui pueri, quaiifque futura lit uxor. 
Fortem pofce animum, et mortis terrore carentem. 
Qui fpatium vitas extremum inter munera popat 
.Naturae ; qui ferre queat quofcunque labores, 
Nefciat irafci, cupiat nihil, et potiores 
Herculis aerumnas credat, faevofque labores 
£t venere, et coenis, et plumis, Sardanapali. 

Monftro quid ipfe tibi poffis dare. Semita certe 
Tranquiliae per virtutem patet xmica vitae. 
Nullum numen abeft fi fit prudentia j fed te 
Nos facimus fortuna Deam, cceloque locamus. 

Even Horace, in his ferious moments, falls 
into this fyftem. 

Nil admirari, prope res eft una Numici, 
Solaque quae poffit facere et fervare beatum. 

We cannot but admire the Stoical fyftern of 
morals, even when we think that, in fome points, 



it went beyond the pitch of human nature. The 
virtue, the temperance, the fortitude and magna- 
nimity of fome who fincerely embraced it, amidft 
all the flattery of fovereign power and the lux- 
ury of a court, will be everlafting monuments 
to the honour of that fyftem, and to the honour 
of human nature. 

That a due regard to what is beft for us upon 
the whole, in an enlightened mind, leads to the 
practice of every virtue, may be argued from 
confidering what we think beft for thofe for 
whom we have the ftrongeft affection, and whofe 
good we tender as our own. In judging for our- 
felves, our pallions and appetites are apt to bias 
our judgment ; but when we judge for others, 
this bias is removed, and we judge impartially. 

What is it then that a wife man would wifh 
as the greateft goo4 to a brother, a fon, or a 
friend ? 

Is it that he may fpcnd his life in a conftant 
round of the pleafures of lenfe, and fare fump- 
tuoufly every day ? 

No, furely ; we wifh him to be a man of real 
Virtue and worth. We may wifh for him an ho- 
nourable ftation in life ; but only with this con- 
dition, that he acquit himfelf honourably in it, 
and acquire juft reputation, by being uleful to 
his country and to mankind. We would a thou- 
fand times rather wifli him honourably to under- 
go the labours of Hercules, than to diflblve in 
pleafure with Sardanapalus, 


268 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 3. 

Such would be the wifli of every man of un- 
derftanding for the friend whom he loves as his 
own foul. Such things, therefore, he judges -to 
be beft for him upon the whole ; and if he 
judges otherwife for himfelf, it is only becaufe 
his judgment is perverted by animal paffions and 

The ium of what has been faid in thefe three 
chapters amounts to this : 

There is a principle of action in men that are 
adult and of a found mind, which, in all ages, 
has been called reafon, and fet in oppolition to 
the animal principles which we call the pajfions. 
The ultimate object of this principle is what we 
judge to be good upon the whole. This is not 
the object of any of our animal principles, they 
being all directed to particular objects, without 
any comparifon with others, or any confideration 
of their being good or ill upon the^whole. 

What is good upon the whole cannot even be 
conceived without the exercile of reafon, and 
therefore cannot be an object to beings that have 
not fome degree of reafon. 

As foon as we have the conception of this ob- 
ject, we are led, by our conititution, to defire 
and purfue it. It juftly claims a preference to 
all objects of purfuit that can come in competi- 
tion with it. In preferring it to any gratification 
that oppofes it, or in fubmitting to any pain or 
mortification which it requires, we act according 
to reafon ; and every fuch action is accompanied 



with felf-approbation and the approbation of 
mankind. The contrary actions are accompanied 
with fhame and felf-condem nation in the agent, 
and with contempt in the fpectator, as foolifh 
and unreafonable. 

The right application of this principle to our 
conduct, requires an extenfive profpect of human 
life, and a correct judgment and eftimate of its 
goods and evils, with refpect to their intrinilc 
worth and dignity, their conftancy and duration, 
and their attainablenefs. He mult be a wife man 
indeed, if any fuch man there be, who can per- 
ceive, in every inftance, or even in every import- 
ant inftance, what is bed for him upon the whole, 
if he have no other rule to direct his conduct. 

However, according to the belt judgment 
which wife men have been able to form, this 
principle leads to the practice of every virtue. 
It leads directly to the virtues of prudence, tem- 
perance and fortitude. And, when we confider 
ourfelves as focial creatures, whofe happinefs or 
mifery is very much connected with that of out 
fellow-men ; when wc confide r, that there are 
many benevolent affections planted in our con- 
stitution, whofe exertions make a capital part of 
our good and enjoyment ; from thefe conildera- 
tions, this principle leads us alio, though more 
indirectly, to the practice of juftice, humanity, 
and all the focial virtues. 

It is true, that a regard to our own good can- 
not, of itfelf, produce any benevolent affection. 


270 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

But, if fuch affections be a part of our conftitu- 
tion, and if the exercife of them make a capital 
part of our happinefs, a regard to our own good 
ought to lead us to cultivate and exercife them, 
as every benevolent affection makes the good of 
others to be our own. 


Defeils of this Principle. 

HAVING explained the nature of this prin- 
ciple of action, and fhewn in general the 
tenor of conduct to which it leads, I mall con- 
clude what relates to it, by pointing out fome of 
its defects, if it be fuppofed, as it has been by 
fome Philofophers, to be the only regulating 
principle of human conduct. 

Upon that fuppofition, it would neither be a 
fufficiently plain rule of conduct, nor would it 
raife the human character to that degree of per- 
fection of which it is capable, nor would it yield 
fo much real happinefs as when it is joined with 
another rational principle of action, to wit, a 
diiinterefted regard to duty. 

Firji, I apprehend the greater part of mankind 
can never attain fuch extenfive views of human 
life, and fo correct a judgment of good and ill, 
as the right application of this principle re- 


Oefects of this principle. 27s 

The authority of the poet before quoted is of 
weight in this point. " Pauci dignofcere poffiint 
" vera bona, remota erroris nebula." The igno- 
rance of the bulk of mankind concurs with the 
ftrength of their paffions to lead them into error 
in this moft important point. 

Every man, in his calm moments, willies to 
know what is beft for him on the whole, and to 
do it. But the difficulty of difcovering it clear- 
ly, amid fuch variety of opinions and the impor- 
tunity of prefent deiires, tempt men to give over 
the fearch, and to yield to the prefent inclination. 

Though Philofophers and moralifb have ta- 
ken much laudable pain9 to correct the errors of 
mankind in this great point, their inftructions 
are known to few ; they have little influence up- 
on the greater part of thofe to whom they are 
known, and fometimes little even upon the Phi- 
lofopher himfelf. 

Speculative difcoveries gradually fpread from 
the knowing to the ignorant, and diffufe them- 
felves over all, fo that, with regard to them, the 
world, it may be hoped, will ftill be growing 
v/ifer. But the errors of men, with regard to what 
is truly good or ill, after being discovered and 
refuted in every age, are ftill prevalent. 

Men Hand in need of a (harper monitor to 
their duty than a dubious view of diitant good. 
There is reafon to believe, that a prefent fenfe of 
duty has, in many cafes, a ftronger influence than 
the apprehenfion of diitant good would have of 


272 ESSAY III. CHAP. 4. 

itfelf. And it cannot be doubted, that a fenfe of 
guilt and demerit is a more pungent reprover 
than the bare apprehenijon of having miftaken 
our true intereft. 

The brave foldier, in expofmg himfelf to dan- 
ger and death, is animated, not by a cold com- 
putation of the good and the ill, but by a noble 
and elevated fenfe of military duty. 

A Philofopher fhews, by a copious and juft 
induction, what is our real good and what our 
ill. But this kind of reafoning is not eafily ap- 
prehended by the bulk of men. It has too little 
force upon their minds to relift the fophiftry of 
the paffions. They are apt to think, that if fuch 
rules be good in the general, they may admit of 
particular exceptions, and that what is good for 
the greater part, may, to fome perfons, on ac- 
count of particular circumftances, be ill. 

Thus, I apprehend, that, if we had no plainer 
rule to direct our conduct in life than a regard 
to our greateft good, the greateft part of man- 
kind would be fatally milled, even by ignorance 
of the road to it. 

Secondly, Though a fieady purfuit of our own 
real good may, in an enlightened mind, pro- 
duce a kind of virtue which is entitled to fome 
degree of approbation, yet it can never produce 
the nobleil kind of virtue, which claims our 
higheft love and efteem. 

We account him a wife man who is wife for 
himfelf; and, if he profecutes this end through 



difficulties and temptations that lie in his way,, 
his character is Far fuperior to that of the man 
who, having the fame end in view, is continually 
ftarting out of the road to it, from an attach- 
ment to his appetites and pailions, and doing 
every day what he knows he mall heartily re- 

Yet, after all, this wife man, whofe thoughts 
and cares are all centered ultimately in himfeif, 
who indulges even his focial affections only with 
a view to his own good, is not the man whom 
we cordially love and efteem. 

Like a cunning merchant, he carries his goods 
to the belt market, and watches every opportu- 
nity of putting them off to the beil account. 
He does well and wifely. But it is for himfeif. 
We owe him nothing upon this account. Even 
when he does good to others, he means only to 
ferve himfeif; and therefore has no jufi claim to 
their gratitude or affection. 

This furely, if it be virtue, is not the nobleft 
kind, but a low and mercenary fpecies of it. It 
can neither give a noble elevation to the mind 
that poflefles it, nor attract the efteem and love 
of others. 

Our cordial love and efteem is due only to the 
man whofe foul is not contracted within itfelfj 
but embraces a more extenfive object : who loves 
virtue, not for her dowry only, but for her own 
fake: whofe benevolence is not felfim, but ge- 
nerous and difintcrefted : who, forgetful of him- 

Vol. IIL S field 

274 ESSAY III. £ CHAP. $ a 

felf, has the common good at heart, not as the 
means only, but as the end : who abhors what is 
bafe, though he were to be a gainer by it, and 
loves that which is right, although he Ihould 
furfer by it. 

Such a man we efteem the perfect man, com- 
pared with whom, he who has no other aim but 
good to himfelf, is a mean and defpicable cha- 

Diunterefted goodnefs and rectitude is the 
glory of the Divine Nature, without which he 
might be an object of fear or hope, but not of 
true devotion. And it is the image of this di- 
vine attribute in the human character, that is 
the glory of man. 

To ferve God and be ufeful to mankind, 
without any concern about our own good and 
happinefs, is, I believe, beyond the pitch of hu- 
man nature. But to ferve God and be ufeful to 
men, merely to obtain good to ourfelves, or to 
avoid ill, is fervility, and not that liberal fervice 
which true devotion and real virtue require. 

Thirdly , Though one might be apt to think, 
that he has the belt chance for happinefs, who 
has no other end of his deliberate actions but 
his own good; yet a little confideration may fa- 
tisfy us of the contrary.. 

A concern for our own good is not a principle 
that, of itfelf, gives any enjoyment. On the 
contrary, it is apt to fill the mind with fear, and 
care, and anxiety. And thefe concomitants of 



this principle, often give pain and uneafinefs, 
that overbalance the good they have in view. 

We may here compare, in point of prefent 
liappinefs, two imaginary characters ; the firrt, 
of the man who has no other ultimate end of 
his deliberate actions but his own good; and 
who has no regard to virtue or duty, but as the 
means to that end. The fecond character is that 
of the man who is not indifferent with regard to 
his own good, but has another ultimate end per- 
fectly confident with it, to wit, a difinterefted 
love of virtue, for its own fake, or a regard to 
duty as an end. 

Comparing thefe two characters in pcint of 
happinefs, that we may give all pofiible advan- 
tage to the felfifh principle, we mall fuppofe the 
man who is actuated iolely by it, to be fo far 
enlightened as to fee it his intereft to, live fo- 
berly, righteoufly, and godly in the world, and 
that he follows the fame courfe of conduct from 
the motive of his own good only, which the 
other does, in a great rrieafure, or in feme mea- 
fure, from a fenfe of duty and rectitude. 

We put the cafe fo as that the difference be- 
tween thefe two perfons may be, not in what 
they do, but in the motive from which they do 
it : and, I think, there can be no doubt that he 
who acts from the nobleft and me it generous 
motive, will have moft happinefs in his conduct. 

The one labours only for hire, without any 
love to the work. The other loves the work, 

S 7, and 

276 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

and thinks it the nobleft and molt honourable 
he can be employed in. To the firft, the morti- 
fication and felf-denial which the courfe of vir- 
tue requires, is a grievous tafk r which he fub« 
mits to only through neceflity. To the other it 
is victory and triumph, in the molt honourable 

It ought further to be confidered, That al- 
though wife men have concluded that virtue is 
the only road to happinefs, this conclufion is 
founded chiefly upon the natural refpecl: men 
have for virtue, and the good or happinefs that 
is intrinfic to it and arifes from the love of it. 
If we fuppofe a man, as we now do, altogether 
deftitute of this principle, who confidered vir- 
tue only as the means to another end, there is no 
realon to think that he would ever take it to be 
the road to happinefs, but would wander for ever 
feeking this object, where it is not to be found. 

The road of duty is fo plain, that the man 
who feeks it, with an upright heart, cannot 
greatly err from it. But the road to happinefs^ 
if that be fuppofed the only end our nature 
leads us to purfue, would be found dark and in- 
tricate, full of fnares and dangers, and therefore 
not to be trodden without fear, and care, and 

The happy man therefore, is not he whofe 
happinefs is his only care, but he who, with per- 
feci: refignation, leaves the care of his happinefs 



to Him who made him, while he purfues with 
ardor the road of his duty. 

This gives an elevation to his mind, which is 
real happinefs. Inftead of care, and fear, and 
anxiety, and difappointment, it brings joy and 
triumph. It gives a relifh to every good we en- 
joy, and brings good out of evil. 

And as no man can be indifferent about his hap- 
pinefs, the good man has the confolation to know, 
that he confults his happinefs moil effectually, 
when, without any painful anxiety about future 
events, he does his duty. 

Thus, I think, it appears, That although a 
regard to our good upon the whole, be a rational 
principle in man, yet, if it be fuppofed the only 
regulating principle of our conduct , it would be 
a more uncertain rule, it would give far lefs per- 
fection to the human charader, and far lefs hap- 
pinefs, than when joined with another rational 
principle, to wit, a regard to duty. 

Qf the Notion of Duty, Rectitude, moral Obligation . 

A Being endowed with the animal prin- 
ciples of aclion only, may be capable of 
being trained to certain purpofes by difcipline, 
as we fee many brute-animals are, but would 
be altogether incapable of being governed by 

S 3 The 

2? 8 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5, 

The fubject of law mull have the conception 
of a general rule of conduct, which, without degree of reafon, he cannot have. He muft 
likewife have a iufficient inducement to obey 
the law, even when his ilrongeft animal deiires 
draw him the contrary way. 

This inducement may be a fenfe of intereir, 
or a fenfe of duty, or both concurring. 

Thefe are the only principles I am able to 
conceive, which can reafonably induce a man to 
regulate all his actions according to a certain 
general rule or law. They may therefore be 
juftly called the rational principles of action, 
iince they can have no place but in a being en-i 
dowed with reafon, and lince it is by them only, 
that man is capable either of political or of mo- 
ral government. 

Without them human life would be like a 
fhip at fea without hands, left to be carried by 
winds and tides as they happen. It belongs to 
the rational part of our nature to intend a cer- 
tain port, as the end of the voyage of life ; to 
I take the advantage of winds and tides when 
they are favourable, and to bear up againft them, 
when they are unfavourable, 

A fenfe of intereft may induce us to do this, 
when a fuit'able reward is fet before us. But 
there is a nobler principle in the confcitution of 
man, which, in many cafes, gives a clearer and 
more certain rule of conduct, than a regard 



merely to intereft would give, and a principle, 
without which man would not be a moral agent. 

A man is prudent when he confults his real 
intereft, but he cannot be virtuous, if he has no 
regard to duty. 

I proceed now to confider this regard to duty 
as a rational principle of action in man, and as 
that principle alone by which he is capable ei- 
ther of virtue or vice. 

I ihall firft offer fome observations with re- 
gard to the general notion of duty, and its con- 
trary, or of right and wrong in human conduct, 
and then confider how we come to judge and 
determine certain things in human conduct to 
be right, and others to be wrong. 

With regard to the notion or conception of 
duty, I take it to be too fimple to admit of a 
logical definition. 

We can define it < nly by fynonymous words 
or phrafes, or by its properties and ne'ceffary con- 
comitants, as when we fay that it is what we 
ought to do, what is fair and honeft, what is ap- 
provable, what every man profeifes to be the rule 
of his conduct, what all men praife, and what is 
in itfelf laudable, though no man mould praife 

I obferve, in the next place, That the notion 
of duty cannot be refolved into that of intereft, 
or what is moll for our happinefs. 

Every man may be fatisfied of this who at- 
tends to his own conceptions, and the language 
S 4 of 

280 ESSAY III. [CHAP. g. 

pf all mankind fhews it. When I fay this is 
my intereft, I mean one thing ; when I fay it is 
my duty, I mean another thing. And though 
the fame courfe of action, when rightly under- 
flood, may be both my duty and my intereft, 
the conceptions are very different; Both are 
reafonable motives to action, but quite diftinc~r. 
in their nature. 

I prefume it will be granted, that in every 
man of real worth, there is a principle of ho- 
nour, a regard to what is honourable or difho- 
nourable, very diftincl: from a regard to his in- 
tereft. It is folly in a man to difregard his in- 
tereft, but to do what is difhonourable is bafenefs. 
The firft may move our pity, or, in fome cafes, 
cur contempt, but the laft provokes our indig- 

As thefe two principles are different in their 
nature, and not refolvable into one, fo the prin- 
ciple of honour is evidently fuperior in dignity 
to that of intereft. 

No man would allow him to be a man of ho- 
nour, who fhould plead his intereft to juftify 
what he acknowledged to be difhonourable ; but 
to facrifice intereft to honour never cofts a blufh. 

It likewife will be allowed by every man of 
honour, that this principle is not to be refolved 
into a regard to our reputation among men s 
otherwife the man of honour would not deferve 
to be trufted in the dark. He would have no 



averiion to lie, or cheat, or play the coward, 
when he had no dread of being difcovered. 

I take it for granted, therefore, that every man 
of real honour feels an abhorrence of certain 
actions, becaufe they are in themfelves bafe, and 
feels an obligation to certain other actions, be- 
caufe they are in themfelves what honour re- 
quires, and this, independently of any confide- 
ration of intereft or reputation. 

This is an immediate moral obligation. This 
principle of honour, which is acknowledged 
by all men who pretend to character, is only 
another name for what we call a regard to duty, 
to rectitude, to propriety of conduct. It is a 
moral obligation which obliges a man to do cer- 
tain things becaufe they are right, and not to do 
other things becaufe they are wrong. 

Aik the man of honour, why he thinks him- 
felf obliged to pay a debt of honour ? The 
very queftion fhocks him. To fuppofe that he 
needs any other inducement to do it but the 
principle of honour, is to fuppofe that he has 
no honour, no worth, and deferves no efteem. 

There is therefore a principle in man, which, 
when he ads according to it, gives him a con- 
fcioufnefs of worth, and when he acts contrary 
to it, a fenfe of demerit. 

From the varieties of education, of faihion, 
of prejudices, and of habits, men may differ 
much in opinion with regard to the extent of 
this principle, and of what it commands and 

forbids ; 

232 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5. 

forbids ; but the notion of it, as far as it is car- 
ried, is the fame in all. It is that which gives 
a man real worth, and is the ohjecl of moral ap- 
proba ion. 

Men of rank call it bonovr, and too often* 
confine it to certain virtues that are thought 
moil elfential to their rank. The vulgar call 
it honejly, probity, virtue, confcience Philofo- 
phers have given it the names of the moral fenfe, 
the moral faculty, rectitude. 

The univerfality of this principle in men that 
are grown up to years of underftanding and re- 
jection, is evident. The words that exprefs it, 
the names of the virtues which it commands, and 
of the vices which it forbids, the ought and ought 
not which exprefs its dictates, make an efTential 
part of every language. The natural affections 
of refpect to worthy characters, of refentment of 
injuries, of gratitude for favours, of indignation 
againft the worthlefs, are parts of the human 
conflitution which fuppofe a right and a wrong 
in conduct. Many tranfactions that are found 
neceifary in the rudefl focieties go upon the fame 
fuppofition. In all teftimony, in all promifes, 
and in all contracts, there is neceffarily implied 
a moral obligation on one party, and a truft in' 
the other, grounded upon this obligation. 

The variety of opinions among men in points of 
morality, is not greater, but, as I apprehend, 
much lefs than in fpeculative points ; and this 
variety is as cafily accounted for from the com- 


mon caufes of error, in the one cafe as in the other ; 
fo that it is not more evident, that there is a real 
difhinction between true and falfe, in matters of 
fpeculation, than that there is a real distinction 
between right and wrong in human conduct. 

Mr Hume's authority, if there were any need 
of it, is of weight in this matter, becaufe he was 
not wont to go raflily into vulgar opinions. 

" Thofe, fays he, who have denied the reality 
" of moral diftinclions, may be ranked among 
" the disingenuous difputants (who really do not 
" believe the opinions they defend, but engage 
" in the controverfy, from affectation, from a 
u fpirit of oppolition, or from a defire of ihew- 
" ing wit and ingenuity fuperior to the reft of 
" mankind) ; nor is it conceivable, that any hu- 
i( man creature could ever ferioufiy believe, that 
ie all characters and actions w:ere alike entitled 
t* to the regard and affection of every one. 

" Let a man's infenfibility be ever fo great, 
" he mull often be touched with the images of 
" right and wrong ; and let his prejudices be 
" ever fo obftinate, he muft obferve that others 
" are fufceptible of like impreffions. The only 
" way, therefore, of convincing an antagonist of 
" this kind is to leave him to himfelf. For, find- 
** ing that nobody keeps up the controverfy with 
" him, it is probable he will at laft, of himfelf, 
" from mere wearinefs, come over to the iide of 
*' common fenfe and reafon." 


s84 3 s s a y in. [chap. 5. 

What we call right and honourable in human 
conduct, was, by the ancients, called honejlum, 
to icxXov; of which Tully fays, " Quod vere di« 
" ciraus, etiamii a nullo laudetur, natura efTe lau- 
" dabile." 

All the ancient feels, except the Epicureans, 
diftinguifhed the honejtum from the utile, as we 
diftinguiih what is a man's duty from what is 
his intereft. 

The word offlcium, xaOJJxov, extended both to the 
honejlum and the utile : So that every reafonable 
action, proceeding either from a fenfe of duty or 
a fenfe of intereft, was called officium. It is de- 
fined by Cicero to be, " Id quod cur fadtum lit 
" ratio probabilis reddi poteft." We common- 
ly render it by the word duty, but it is more ex- 
teniive ; for the word duty, in the Englifh lan- 
guage, I think, is commonly applied only to what 
the ancients called honejlum. Cicero, and Pa- 
NjEtius before him, treating of offices, firft point 
out thofe that are grounded upon the honejlum, 
and next thofe that are grounded upon the utile. 

The moft ancient philofophical fyftem con- 
cerning the principles of action in the human 
mind, and, I think, the moft agreeable to Nature, 
is that which we find in fome fragments of the 
ancient Pythagoreans, and which is adopted by 
Plato, and explained in fome of his dialogues. 
According to this fyftem, there is a leading 
principle in the foul, which, like the fupreme 
power in a commonwealth, has authority and 



right to govern. This leading principle they 
called reafon. It is that which diftinguifhes men 
that are adult from brutes, idiots and infants. 
The inferior principles, which are under the au- 
thority of the leading principle, are our paffions 
and appetites, which we have in common with 
the brutes. 

Cicero adopts this fyftem, and exprefTes it 
well in few words. ** Duplex enim ell vis ani- 
" morum atque naturae. Una pars in appetitu 
" pofita eft, quae hominem hue et illuc rapit, 
" quae eft c^/aw graece, altera in ratione, quae do- 
*' cet, et explanat quid faciendum fugiendumve 
" fit. Ita fit ut ratio praeiit appetitus obtempe- 
'« ret." 

This divifion of our active principles can hard- 
ly indeed be accounted a difcovery of philofophy, 
becaufe it has been common to the unlearned in 
all ages of the world, and feems to be dictated by 
the common fenfe of mankind. 

What I would now obferve concerning this 
common divifion of our active powers, is, that 
the leading principle, which is called reafon, 
comprehends both a regard to what is right and 
honourable, and a regard to our happinefs upon 
the whole. 

Although thefe be really two diftinct principles 
of action, it is very natural to comprehend them 
under one name, becaufe both are leading prin- 
ciples, both fuppofe the uie of reafon, and, when 
rightly underftood, both lead to the fame courfe 


286 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5, 

of life. They are like two fountains whofe 
lireams unite and run in the fame channel. 

When a man, on one occafion, coniults his real 
happinefs in things not inconliftent with his du- 
ty, though in oppofition to the folicitation of ap- 
petite or paffion ; and when, on another occafion, 
without any felfifh confideration, he does what is 
right and honourable, becaufe it is fo ; in both 
thefe cafes, he acls reafonably ; every man ap- 
proves of his conduct, and calls it reaibnable, 
or according to reafon. 

So that, when we fpeak of reafon as a prin- 
ciple of action in man, it includes a regard both 
to the honejium and to the utile. Both are com- 
bined under one name ; and accordingly the dic- 
tates of both, in the Latin tongue, were combined 
under the name officium, and in the Greek under 

If we examine the abftract notion of duty, or 
moral obligation, it appears to be neither any 
real quality of the action confidered by itfelf, nor 
of the agent confidered without refpecl to the 
action, but a certain relation between the one and 
the other. 

When we fay a man ought to do fuch a thing, 
the oughts which expreffes the moral obligation, 
has a refpecl, on the one hand, to the perlon who 
ought, and, on the other, to the action which he 
ought to do. Thofe two correlates are effential to 
every moral obligation ; take away either, and it 
has no exiltence. So that, if we feek the place 



of moral obligation among the categories, it be- 
longs to the category of relation. 

There are many relations of things, of which 
we have the moil diitinct conception, without 
being able to define them logically. Equality 
and proportion are relations between quantities, 
which every man underftands, but no man can. 

Moral obligation is a relation of its own kind, 
which every man underftands, but is perhaps too 
fimple to admit of logical definition. Like all 
other relations, it may be changed or annihilated 
by a change in any of the two related things, I 
mean the agent or the action. 

Perhaps it may not be improper to point out 
briefly the circumftariees, both in the action and 
in the agent, which are necefiary to conftitute 
moral obligation. The univerfal agreement of 
men in thefe, Ihews that they have one and the 
fame notion of it. 

With regard to the action, it mult be a volun- 
tary action, or preftation of the perfon obliged, 
and not of another. There can be no moral ob- 
ligation upon a man to be fix feet high. Nor 
can I be under a moral obligation that another 
perfon (hould do fuch a thing. His actions mull 
be imputed to himfelf, and mine only to me, ei- 
ther for praife or blame. 

I need hardly mention, that a perfon can be 
under a moral obligation, only to things within 
the fphere of his natural power. 


288 essay in. [chap. 5. 

As to the party obliged, it is evident, there 
can be no moral obligation upon an inanimate 
thing. To fpeak of moral obligation upon a 
ftone or a tree is ridiculous, becaufe it contradicts 
every man's notion of moral obligation. 

The perfon obliged mud have understanding 
and will, and fome degree of active power. He 
muft not only have the natural faculty of under- 
standing, but the means of knowing his obliga- 
tion. An invincible ignorance of this deftroys 
all moral obligation. 

The opinion of the agent in doing the action 
gives it its moral denomination. If he does a 
materially good action, without any belief of its 
being good, but from fome other principle, it is 
no good action in him. And if he does it with 
the belief of its being ill, it is ill in him. 

Thus, if a man mould give to his neighbour 
a potion which he really believes will poifon 
him, but which, in the event, proves falutary, 
and does much good ; in moral eftimation, he is 
a poifoner, and not a benefactor. 

Thefe qualifications of the action and of the 
agent, in moral obligation, are felf-evident j and 
the agreement of all men in them fhows, that 
all men have the fame notion and a diftinct no- 
tion of moral obligation, 




Of the Senfs of Duty. 

WE are next to confider, how we learn to 
judge and determine, that this is right, 
and that is wrong. 

The abftracT: notion of moral good and ill 
would be of no ufe to direct our life, if we had 
not the power of applying it to particular ac- 
tions, and determining what is morally good, and 
what is morally ill. 

Some Philofophers, with whom I agree, afcribe 
this to an original power or faculty in man, 
which they call the moral fenfe, the moral facul- 
ty ', confcience. Others think, that our moral fen- 
timents may be accounted for without fuppofing 
any original fenfe or faculty appropriated to 
that purpofe, and go into very different fyftems 
to account for them. 

I am not, at prefent, to take any notice of 
thofe fyftems, becaufe the opinion firft mention- 
ed feems to me to be the truth, to wit, That, by 
an original power of the mind, when we come to 
years of underftanding and reflection, we not 
only have the notions of right and wrong in- con- 
duel, but perceive certain things to be right, and 
others to be wrong. 

Vol. III. T The 

2pO £ S S A Y III. [CHAP. & 

The name of the moral fenfe, though more fre- ■ 
quently given to confcience fince Lord Shaftes- 
bury and Dr Hutcheson wrote, is not new. 
The Jen/us reBi et honejli -is a phrafe not unfre- 
quent among the ancients, neither is the fenfe of 
duty among us. 

It has got this name of fenfe, no doubt, from 
fome analogy which it is conceived to bear to the 
external fenfes. And if we have juft notions of the 
office of the external fenfes, the analogy is very 
Evident, and I fee no reafon too take offence, as 
fome have done, at the name of the moral fenfe. 

The offence taken at this name feems to be 
Owing to this, That Philofophers have degraded 
the fenfes too much, and deprived them of the 
moll important part of their office. 

We are taught, that, by the fenfes, we have 
only certain ideas which we could not have 
otherwife. They are reprefented as powers by 
which we have fenfations and ideas, not as powers 
by which we judge. 

This notion of the fenfes I take to be very 
lame, and to contradict what nature and accurate 
reflection teach concerning them. 

A man who has totally loll the fenfe of feeing, 
may retain very diftinct notions of the various 
colours ; but he cannot judge of colours, becaufe 
he has loll the fenfe by which alone he could 
judge. By my eyes I not only have the ideas of 
a fquare and a circle, but I perceive this furface 
to be a fquare, that to be a circle. 



By my eat, I not only have the idea of founds, 
loud and foft, acute and grave, but I immediate- 
ly perceive and judge thi9 found to be loud, that 
to be foft * this to be acute, that to be grave. 
Two or more fynchronous founds I perceive to 
be concordant, others to be difcordant. 

Thefe are judgments of the fenfes. They 
have always been called and accounted fuch, by 
thofe whofe minds are not tinctured by philofo- 
phical theories. They are the immediate tefti- 
mony of Nature by our fenfes; and we are fa 
conftituted by Nature, that wemuft receive their 
teftimony, for no other reafon but becaufe it is 
given by our fenfes. 

In vain do Sceptics endeavour to overturn this 
evidence by metaphyseal reafoning. Though 
we Ihould not be able to anfvver their arguments, 
we believe our fenfes Hill, and reft our molt im- 
portant concerns upon their teftimony. 

If this be a juft notion of our external fenfes, 
as I conceive it is, our moral faculty may, I think, 
without impropriety, be called the moral fenfe. 

In its dignity it is, without doubt, far fuperior 
to every other power of the mind ; but there is 
this analogy between it and the external fenfes, 
That, as by them we have not only the original 
conceptions of the various qualities of bodies, 
but the original judgments that this body has 
fuch a quality, that fuch another ; fo by our mo- 
ral faculty, we have both the original concep- 
tions of right and wrong in conduct, of merit 
T 2 and 

$$2 ESSAY III. [CHAP . 6. 

and demerit, and the original judgments that 
this conduct is right, that is wrong ; that this 
character has worth, that, demerit. 

The teftimony of our moral faculty, like that 
of the external fenfes, is the teftimony of Nature, 
and we have the fame reafon to rely upon it. 

The truths immediately teftified by the exter- 
nal fenfes are the firft principles from which we 
reafon, with regard to the material world, and 
from which all our knowledge of it is deduced. 

The truths immediately teftified by our moral 
faculty, are the firft principles of ail literal rea- 
foning, from which all our knowledge of our du- 
ty muft be deduced. 

By moral reafoning, I underftand all reafoning' 
that is brought to prove that iuch conduct is 
right, and deferving of moral approbation, or 
that it is wrong, or that it is indifferent, and, in 
itfelf, neither morally good nor ill. 

I think all we can properly call moral judg- 
ments are reducible to one or other of thefe, as 
all human actions, conlidered in a moral view, 
are either good, or bad, or indifferent. 

I know the term moral reafoning is often ufed 
by good writers in a more extenfive fenfe ; but 
as the reafoning I now fpeak of is of sl peculiar 
kind, diftinct from all others, and therefore ought 
to have a diftincl name, I take the liberty to li- 
mit the name of moral reafoning to this kind. 

Let it be underftood therefore, that in the rea- 
foning I call moral, the conclufion always is, 
3 That 


That fomething in the conduct of moral agents 
is good or bad, in a greater or a lefs degree, or 

All reafoning mufl be grounded on firft prin- 
ciples. This holds in moral reafoning, as in all 
other kinds. There muft therefore be in mo- 
rals, as in all other fciences, firft or felf-evident 
principles, on which all moral reafoning is 
grounded, and on which it ultimately refts. From 
fuch felf-evident principles, conclu lions may be 
drawn fynthetically with regard to the moral 
conduct, of life ; and particular duties or virtues 
may be traced back to fuch principles, analyti- 
cally. But, without fuch principles, we can no 
more eftablifh any conclufton in morals, than we 
can build a cailie in the air, without any founda- 

An example or two will ferve to illustrate this. 

It is a firft principle in morals, That we ought 
not to do to another, what we fhould think 
wrong to be done to us in like circumftances, 
If a man is not capable of perceiving this in his 
cool moments, when he reflects ferioufly, he is 
not a moral agent, nor is he capable of being 
convinced of it by reafoning. 

From what topic can you reafon with fuch a 
man ? You may poflibly convince him by rea- 
foning, that it is his intereft to obferve this rule; 
but this is not to convince him that it is his du- 
ty. To reafon about juftice with a man who 
fees nothing to be juft or unjuft ; or about be- 
nevolence with a man who fees nothing in bene- 
T 3 volence 

204 ESSAY III. [chap. 6. 

volence preferable to malice, is like reafoning 
with a blind man about colour, or with a deaf 
man about found. 

It is a queftion in morals that admits of rea- 
foning, Whether, by the law of Nature, a man 
ought to have only one wife ? 

We reafon upon this queftion, by balancing 
the advantages and difadvantages to the family, 
and to fociety in general, that are naturally con- 
fequent both upon monogamy and polygamy. 
And if it can be fhewn that the advantages are 
greatly upon the fide of monogamy, we think 
the point is determined. 

But, if a man does not perceive that he ought 
to regard the good of fociety, and the good of 
his wife and children, the reafoning can have no 
effecl upon him, becaufe he denies the firit prin- 
ciple upon which it is grounded. 

Suppofe again, that we reafori for monogamy 
from the intention of Nature, difcovered by the 
proportion of males and of females that are 
born ; a proportion which correfponds perfect- 
ly with monogamy, but by no means with po- 
lygamy. This argument can have no weight 
with a man who does not perceive that he ought 
to have a regard to the intention of Nature. 

Thus we mail find that all moral reafonings 
reft upon one or more firft principles of morals, 
whofe truth is immediately perceived without 
reafoning, by all men come to years of under-? 



And this indeed is common to every branch 
of human knowledge that deierves the name of 
fcience. There muft be firft principles proper 
to. that fcience, by which the whole fuperftruc- 
ture is fupported. 

The firft principles of all the fciences, muft 
he the immediate dictates of our natural facul- 
ties ; nor is it poflible that we mould have any 
■other evidence of their truth. And in different 
fciences the faculties which dictate their firft 
principles are very different. 

Thus, in aftronomy and in optics, in which 
fuch wonderful difcoveries have been made, that 
the unlearned can hardly believe them to be 
within the reach of human capacity, the firft 
principles are phenomena attefted folely by that 
little organ, the human eye. If we difbelieve 
its report, the whole of thofe two noble fabrics 
of fcience falls to pieces like the vilions of the 

The principles of mu fie all depend upon the 
teftimony of the ear. The principles of natu- 
ral philofophy, upon the fads attefted by the 
fenfes. The principles of mathematics, upon 
the neceflary relations of quantities confidered 
abftraclly, fuch as, That equal quantities added 
to equal quantities make equal fums, and the 
like ; which neceflary relations are immediate- 
ly perceived by the underftanding. 

The fcience of politics borrows its principles 

from what we know by experience of the cha- 

T 4 racier 

296 essay in* [chap. 6c 

racier and conduct of man. We confider not 
what he ought to be, but what he is, and thence 
conclude what part he will act in different fi« 
tuations and circumftances. From fuch prin- 
ciples we reafon concerning the caufes and ef- 
fects of different forms of government, laws, 
cuftoms, and manners. If man were either a 
more perfect or a more imperfect, a better or a 
worfe creature than he is, politics would be a 
different fcience from what it is. 

The firfl principles of morals are the imme- 
diate dictates of the moral faculty. They fhew 
us, not what man is, but what he ought to be* 
Whatever is immediately perceived to be juft, 
honeft, and honourable, in human conduct, car- 
ries moral obligation along with it, and the con- 
trary carries demerit and blame ; and, from 
thofe moral obligations that are immediately 
perceived, all other moral obligations mufl be 
deduced by reafoning. 

He that will judge of the colour of an object, 
muil confult his eyes, in a good light, when 
there is no medium or contiguous objects that 
may give it a falfe tinge. But in vain will he 
confult every other faculty in this matter. 

In like manner, he that will judge of the firfl 
principles of morals, muft confult his confcience, 
or moral faculty, when he is calm and difpaffion- 
ate, unbiaffed by interefl, affection, or fafhion. 

As we rely upon the clear and diflinct tefti- 
mony of our eyes, concerning the colours and 



figures of the bodies about us, we- have the fame 
reafon to rely with fecurity upon the clear and 
unbiaffed teftimony of our confcience, with re- 
gard to what we ought and ought not to do. In 
many cafes, moral worth and demerit are dif- 
cerned no lefs clearly by the laft of thofe natu- 
ral faculties, than figure and colour by the firft. 

The faculties which Nature hath given us, are 
the only engines we can ule to find out the truth. 
We cannot indeed prove that thofe faculties are 
not fallacious, unlefs God mould give us new 
faculties to lit in judgment upon the old. But 
we are born under a neceffity of trufting them. 

Every man in his fenfes believes his eyes, his 
ears, and his other fenfes. He believes his con- 
fcioufnefs, with refpect to his own thoughts and 
purpofes, his memory, with regard to what is 
palt, his underftanding, with regard to abitrac~t 
relations of things, and his tafte, with regard to 
what is elegant and beautiful. And he has 
the fame reafon, and, indeed, is under the fame 
neceffity of believing the clear and unbiaffed 
dictates of his confcience, with regard to what 
is honourable and what is bafe. 

The fura of what has been faid in this chap- 
ter is, That, by an original power of the mind, 
which we call confcience, or the moral faculty, 
we have the conceptions of right and wrong in 
human conduct, of merit and demerit, of duty 
and moral obligation, and our other moral con- 
ceptions \ and that, by the fame faculty, we 


29 S E S S A X III. [CHAP. 7. 

perdeive fome things in human conduct to be 
right, and others to be wrong; that the firfl 
principles of morals are -the dictates of this fa- 
culty ; and that we have the fame reafon to rely 
upon thofe dictates, as upon the determinations 
of our fenfes, or of our other natural faculties. 


Of moral Approbation and Difapprobation. 

( 10R moral judgments are not like thofe we 
form in fpeculative matters, dry and un- 
affecting, but, from their nature, are neceffari- 
ly accompanied with affections and feelings ; 
which we are now to coniider. 

It was before obferved, that every human ac- 
tion, conlidered in a moral view, appears to us 
good, or bad, or indifferent. When we judge the 
action to be indifferent, neither good nor bad, 
though this be a moral judgment, it produces 
no affection nor feeling, any more than our judg- 
ments in fpeculative matters. 

But we approve of good actions, and difap- 
prove of bad ; and this approbation and difap- 
probation, when we analyfe it, appears to in- 
clude, not only a moral judgment of the action, 
but fome affection, favourable or unfavourable, 
towards the agent, and fome feeling in ourfelves. 

Nothing is more evident than this, That mo- 
ral worth, even in a ftranger, with whom we 
have not the leafl connection, never fails to pro- 
a duce 


duce fome degree of efteem mixed with good 

The efteem which we have for a man on ac- 
count of his moral worth, is different from that 
which is grounded upon his intellectual accom- 
plishments, his birth, fortune, and connection 
with us. 

Moral worth, when it is not fet off by emi- 
nent abilities, and external advantages, is like a 
diamond in the mine, which is rough and un- 
polifhed, and perhaps crufted over with fome 
bafer material that takes away its luftre. 

But, when it is attended with thefe advanta- 
ges, it is like a diamond cut, polifhed, and fet. 
Then its luftre attracis every eye. Yet thefe 
things which add fo much to its appearance, 
udd but little to its real value. 

We muft further obferve, that efteem and be- 
nevolent regard, not only accompany real worth 
by the conftitution of our nature, but are per- 
ceived to be really and properly due to it ; and 
that, on the contrary, unworthy conduct really 
merits diflike and indignation. 

There is no judgment of the heart of man 
more clear, or more irreiiftible, than this, That 
efteem and regard are really due to good con- 
duel, and the contrary to bafe and unworthy 
conduct. Nor can we conceive a greater depra- 
vity in the heart of man, than it would be to 
fee and acknowledge worth without feeling any 
refpect to it \ or to fee and acknowledge the 


£03 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

higliell worthleflhefs without any degree of dif- 
like and indignation. 

The efteem that is due to worthy conduct, is 
•hot leffened when a man is confcious of it in 
himfelf. Nor can he help having fome efteem 
for himfelf, when he is confcious of thofe qua- 
lities for which he moll highly efleems others. 

Self-efteem, grounded upon external advan- 
tages, or the gifts of fortune, is pride. When it 
is grounded upon a vain conceit of inward 
worth which we do not poifefs, it is arrogance 
and felf-deceit. But when a man, without 
thinking of himfelf more highly than he ought 
to think, is confcious of that integrity of heart, 
and uprightnefs of conduct, which he raoft 
highly efteems in others, and values himfelf 
duly upon this account ; this perhaps may be 
called the pride of virtue, but it is not a vicious 
pride. It is a noble and magnanimous difpoii- 
tion, without which there can be no fteady vir- 

A man who has a character with himfelf, 
which he values, will difdain to act in a man- 
ner unworthy of it. The language of his heart 
will be like that of Job, " My righteoufnefs I 
" hold faft, and will not let it go ; my heart 
M mail not reproach me while I live." 

A good man owes much to his character with 
*he world, and will be concerned to vindicate it 
from unjuft imputations. But he owes much 
more to his character with himfelf. For if his 



heart condemns him not, he has confidence to- 
wards God ; and he can more eafily bear the 
lalh of tongues than the reproach of his own 

The fenfe of honour, fo much fpoken of, and 
fo often mifapplied, is nothing elfe, when right- 
ly underftood, but the difdain which a man of 
worth feels to do a difhonourable action, though 
it mould never be known nor fufpected. 

A good man will have a much greater ab- 
horrence againft doing a bad aclion, than even 
againft having it unjuftly imputed to him. The 
laft may give a wound to his reputation, but the 
firft gives a wound to his confeience, which is 
more difficult to heal, and more painful to ea- 

Let us, on the other hand, confider how we 
are afTcdted by difapprobation, either of the 
conduct of others, or of our own. 

Every thing we difapprove in the conduct of 
a man, lefTens him in our efteem. There are 
indeed brilliant faults, which, having a mixture 
of good and ill in them, may have a very dif- 
ferent afpect, according to the fide on which 
we view them. 

In fuch faults of our friends, and much more 
of ourfelves, we are difpofed to view them on 
the belt fide, and on the contrary fide in thofe 
to whom we are ill affected. 
. This partiality, in taking things by the bell 
or by the worit handle, is the chief caufe of 


362' ESSAY III. [CHAF. p 

wrong judgment with regard to the character 
of others, and of felf- deceit with regard to our 

But when we take complex actions to pieces, 
and view every part by itfelf, ill conduct of 
every kind lefTens our efteem of a man, as much 
as good conduct increafes it. It is apt to turn 
love into indifference, indifference into con- 
tempt, and contempt into averfion and abhor- 

When a man is confcious of immoral conduct 
in him felf, it lefTens his felf efteem. It depref- 
fes and humbles his fpirit, and makes his coun- 
tenance to falh He could even punifh himfelf 
for his mifbehaviour, if that could wipe out the 
(lain. There is a fenfe of difhonour and wortb- 
leffnefs arifing from guilt, as well as a fenfe of 
honour and worth arifing from worthy conduct. 
And this is the cafe, even if a man could con- 
ceal his guilt from all the world. 

We are next to confider the agreeable or un- 
eafy feelings, in the breaft of the fpectator or 
judge, which naturally accompany moral appro- 
bation and difapprobation. 

There is no affection that is not accompanied 
with fome agreeable or uneafy emotion. It has 
often been obferved, that all the benevolent af- 
fections give pleafure, and the contrary ones 
pain, in one degree or another. 

When we contemplate a noble character, 
. though but in ancient hiftory, or even in fic- 
tion ; 


tion y like a beautiful object, it gives a lively 
and pleafant emotion to the fpirits. It warms 
the heart, and invigorates the whole frame. 
Like the beams of the fun, it enlivens the face 
of Nature, and diffufes heat and light all a- 

We feel a fympathy with every noble and 
worthy character that is reprefented to us. We 
rejoice in his profperity, we are afflicted in his 
diflrefs. We even catch fome fparks of that 
celeftial fire that animated his conduct, and feel 
the glow of his virtue and magnanimity. 

This fympathy is the neceffary effect of our 
judgment of his conduct, and of the approba- 
tion and efteem due to it ; for real fympathy is 
always the effect of Jfome benevolent affect-ion, 
fuch as efteem, love, pity, or humanity. 

When the perfon whom we approve is con- 
nected with us by acquaintance, friendfhip, or 
blood, the pleafure we derive from his conduct 
is greatly increafed. We claim fome property 
in his worth, and are apt to value ourfelves on 
account of it. This (hews a ftronger degree of 
fympathy, which gathers ftrength from every 
focial tie. 

But the higheft pleafure of all is, when we 
are confcious of good condud: in ourfelves. 
This, in (acred fcripture, is called the tejiimony 
of a good confcience ; and it is reprefented, not 
only in the facred writing's, but in the writings 
of all moralifts, of every age and feci, as the 


304 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

pureft, the molt noble and valuable of all hu- 
man enjoyments. 

Surely, were we to place the chief happinefs 
of this life (a thing that has been fo much 
fought after) in any one kind of enjoyment, 
that which arifes from the confcioufnefs of in- 
tegrity, and a uniform endeavour to act the beft 
part in our ftation, would moil juflly claim the 
preference to all other enjoyments the human 
mind is capable of, on account of its dignity ^ 
the intenlenefs of the happinefs it affords, its 
liability and duration, its being in our power, 
and its being proof againft all accidents of time 
and fortune. 

On the other hand, the view of a vicious cha- 
racter, like that of an ugry and deformed ob- 
ject, is difagreeable. It gives difgult and ab- 

If the unworthy perfon be nearly connected 
with us, we have a very painful fympathy in- 
deed. We blufh even for the fmaller faults of 
thofe we are connected with, and feel ourfelves, 
as it were, difhonoured by their ill conduct:. 

But, when there is a high degree of depra- 
vity in any perfon connected with us, we are 
deeply humbled and deprefTed by it. The fym- 
pathetic feeling has fome refemblance to that of 
guilt, though it be free from all guilt. We are 
afliamed to fee our acquaintance ; we would, if 
pofhble, difclaim all connection with the guilty 



perfon. We wifli to tear him from our hearts, 
and to blot him out of our remembrance. 

Time, however, alleviates thofe fympathetic 
forrows which arife from bad behaviour in our 
friends and connections, if we are confcious 
that we had no fhare in their guilt. 

The wifdom of God, in the confutation of 
our nature, hath intended, that this fympathe- 
tic diitrefs ihould intereft us the more deeply in 
the good behaviour, as well as in the good for- 
tune, of our friends ; and that thereby friend- 
ship, relation, and every focial tie, ihould be 
aiding to virtue and unfavourable to vice. 

How common is it, even in vicious parents, 
to be deeply afflicted when their children go in- 
to thefe courfes in which perhaps they have 
gone before them, and, by their example, fhewn 
them the way. 

If bad conduct in thofe in whom we are in- 
terefled, be uneafy and painful, it is fo much 
more when we are confeious of it in ourfelves. 
This uneafy feeling has a name in all languages, 
We call it remorfe. 

It has been defcribed in fuch frightful co- 
lours by writers facred and profane, by writers 
of every age and of every perfuafion, even by 
Epicureans, that I will not attempt the defcrip- 
tion of it. 

It is on account of the uneafmefs of this feel- 
ing, that bad men take fo much pains to get 
rid of it, and to hide, even from their own eyes, 

Vol. III. X T as 

3^6 essay in. [chap. 7. 

as much as poffible,- the pravity of their con- 
duct Hence arife all the arts of felf-deceit, 
by which men varnifh their crimes, or endea- 
vour to warn out the flain of guilt. Hence the 
various methods of expiation which fuperftition 
has invented, to folace the confcience of the cri- 
minal, and give fome cooling to his parched 
breaft. Hence alfo arife, very often, the efforts 
of men of bad hearts to excel in fome amiable 
quality, which may be a kind of counterpoife 
to their vices, both in the opinion of others and 
in their own. 

For no man can bear the thought of being 
abfolutely deftitute of all worth. The con- 
icioufnefs of this would make him deteft him- 
felf, hate the light of the fun, and fly, if poffi- 
ble, out of exiilence. 

I have now endeavoured to delineate the na- 
tural operations of that principle of action in 
man, which we call the moral fenfe, the moral 
faculty, confcience. We know nothing of our 
natural faculties, but by their operations within 
us. Of their operations in our own minds, we 
are confeious, and we fee the ilgns of their ope- 
rations in the minds of others. Of this faculty 
the operations appear to be, the judging ulti- 
mately of what is right, what is wrong, and 
what is indifferent, in the conduct of moral a- 
gents ; the approbation of good conduct and 
difapprobation of bad in confequence of that 
judgment, and the agreeable emotions which 



attend obedience, and difagreeable which attend 
difobedience to its dictates. 

The Supreme Being, who has given its eves 
to difcern what may be ufeful and what hurtful 
to our natural life, hath alfo given us this light 
within to direct our moral conduct. 

Moral conduct is the bufinefs of every man ; 
and therefore the knowledge of it ought to be 
within the reach of all. 

Epicurus reafoned acutely andjuftly to (hew, 
that a regard to our prefent happinefs mould in- 
duce us to the practice of temperance, juftice, 
and humanity. But the bulk of mankind can- 
not follow long trains of reafoning. The loud 
voice of the paihons drowns the calm and Hill 
voice of reafoning. 

Confcience commands and forbids with more 
authority, and, in the moll common and moil 
important points of conduct, without the labour 
of reafoning. Its voice is heard by every man, 
and cannot be difregarded with impunity. 

The fenfe of guilt makes a man at variance 
with himfelf. He fees that he is what he ought 
not to be. He has fallen from the dignity of his 
nature, and has fold his real worth for a thing 
of no value. He is confeious df demerit, and 
cannot avoid the dread of meeting with its re- 

On the other hand, he who pays a facred re- 
gard to the dictates of his confcience, cannot 
fail of a prefect reward, and a reward propor- 
U 2 tioned 

308 essay in. [chap. 7. 

tioned to the exertion required in doing his du- 

• The man who, in oppofltion to ftrong temp- 
tation, by a noble effort, maintains his integrity, 
is the happieit man on earth. The more fevere 
his conflict has been, the greater is his triumph. 
The confcioufnefsof inward worth gives ftrength 
to his heart, and makes his Countenance to fhine. 
Tempefts* may beat and floods roar ; but he 
Hands firm as a rock, in the joy of a good con- 
ference, and confidence of divine approbation. 

To this I (hall only add, what every man's 
conference dictates, That he who does his duty, 
from tfye conviction that it is right and honour- 
able, and what he ought to do, acts from a no- 
bler principle, and with more inward fatisfac- 
tion, than he who is bribed to do it, merely 
from the confideration of a reward prefent or 


Obfervations concerning Conference. 

Shall now conclude this EfTay with fome 
obfervations concerning this power of the 
mind which we call cotifcience, by which its na- 
ture may be better underftood. 

The jirjl is, That like all our other powers, it 
comes to maturity by infenfible degrees, and 



may be much aided in its ftrength and vigour 
by proper culture. 

All the human faculties have their infancy 
and their Hate of maturity. 

The faculties which we have in common with 
the brutes appear fh'ft, and have the quicker! 
growth. In the firft period of life, children are 
not capable of diftinguilhing right from wrong 
in human conduct \ neither are they capable cf 
abftracl reafoning in matters of fcience. Their 
judgment of moral conduct, as well as their 
judgment of truth, advances by infenfiblc de- 
grees, like the corn and the grafs. 

In vegetables, firft the blade or the leaf ap- 
pears, then the flower, and laft of all the fruit, 
the nohleft production of the three, and that for 
which the others were produced. Thefe fuc- 
ceed one another in a regular order. They re- 
quire moifture and heat and air and fhelter to 
bring them to maturity, and may be much im- 
proved by culture. According to the variations 
of foil, feafon and culture, fome plants are 
brought to much greater perfection than others 
of the fame fpecies. But no variation of culture 
or feafon or foil can make grapes grow from 
thorns, or figs from thirties. 

We may obferve a fimilar progrefs in the fa- 
culties of the mind : For there is a wonderful 
analogy among all the works of God, from the 
lead; even to the greateft. 

U a The 

3*o ESSAY III. [chap. 8. 

The faculties of man unfold themfelves in a 
certain order, appointed by the great Creator. 
In their gradual progrefs, they may be greatly 
affifted or retarded, .improved or corrupted, by 
education, inftruclion, example, exercife, and 
by the fociety and converfation of men, which, 
like foil and culture in plants, may produce 
great changes to the better or to the worfe. 

But thele means can never produce any new 
faculties, nor any, other than were originally 
planted in the mind by the Author of Nature. 
And what is common to the whole fpecies, in 
all the varieties of inftruclion and education, of 
improvement and degeneracy, is the work of 
God, and not the operation of fecond caufes. 

Such we may juftly account confeience, or the 
faculty of diilinguifhing right conduct from 
wrong ; lince it appears, and in all nations and 
ages has appeared, in men that are come to ma- 

The feeds, as it were, of moral difcernment 
are planted in the mind by him that made us. 
They grow up in their proper feafon, and are at 
nrft tender and delicate, and eafily warped. 
Their progrefs depends very much upon their 
being duly cultivated and properly exercifed. 

It is fo with the power of reafoning, which 
all acknowledge to be one of the moil eminent 
natural faculties of man. It appears not in in- 
fancy. It fprings up, by infenfible degrees, as 
we grow to maturity. But its ilrength and vi- 
gour depend fo much upon its being duly culti- 


rated and exercifed, that we fee many indivi- 
duals, nay many nations, in which it is hardly 
to be perceived. 

Our intellectual difcernment is not fo ftrong 
and vigorous by nature, as to fecure us from er- 
rors in fpeculation. On the contrary, we fee a 
great part of mankind, in every age, funk in 
grofs ignorance of things that are obvious to the 
more enlightened, and fettered by errors and 
falfe notions, which the human underitanding, 
duly improved, ealily throws off. 

It would be extremely abfurd, from the er- 
rors and ignorance of mankind, to conclude that 
there is no fuch thing as truth ; or that man 
has not a natural faculty of difcerning it, and 
diftinguifhing it from error. 

In like manner, our moral difcernment of 
what we ought, and what we ought not to do, 
is not fo ftrong and vigorous by nature, as to 
fecure us from very grofs miftakes with regard 
to our duty. 

In matters of conducl, as well as in matters 
of fpeculation, we are liable to be mified by pre- 
judices of education, or by. wrong inllructiom 
But, in matters of conduct, we are alfo very li- 
able to have our judgment warped by our ap- 
petites and paffions, by fafhion, and by the con- 
tagion of evil example. 

We muft not therefore think, be'caufe man 

has the natural power of difcerning what is 

right and what is wrong, that he has no need 

U 4 o£ 

-12 ESSAY III. [CHAP. b. 

of initruclion ; that this power has no need of 
cultivation and improvement ; that he may fafe- 
]y rely upon the fuggeilions of his mind, or up- 
on opinions he has got, he knows not liow. 

What lhould we think of a man who, becauie 
he has by nature the power of moving all his 
limbs, mould therefore conclude that he needs 
not be taught to dance, or to fence, to ride, 
or to fwim ? All thefe exercifes are performed 
by that power of moving our limbs, which we 
have by nature ; but they will be performed 
very awkwardly and imperfectly by thofe who 
have not been trained to them, and praclifed in 

What mould we think of the man who, be- 
cauie he has the power by nature of diitinguiih- 
ing what is true from what is falfe, ihould con- 
clude that he has no need to be taught mathe- 
tics, or natural philofophy, or other fciences? It 
is by the natural power of human understanding 
that every thing in thofe fciences has been dif- 
covered, and that the truths they contain are 
difcerned. But the underftanding left to itfelf, 
without the aid of initxuction, training, habit, 
and exercife, would make very fmall progrefs, 
us every one fees, in perfons uninftructed in thofe 

Our natural power of difcerning between right 
and wrong, needs the aid of initruction, educa- 
tion, exercife, and habit, as well as our other na- 
tural oowers. 
> *• • - 



There are perfons who, as the Scripture fpeaks, 
have, by reafon of ufe, their fenfes exercifed to 
difcern both good and evil ; by that means, they 
have a much quicker, clearer, and more certain 
judgment in morals than others. 

The man who neglects the means of improve- 
ment in the knowledge of his duty, may do ve- 
ry bad things, while he follows the light of his 
mind. And though he be not culpable for act- 
ing according to his judgment, he may be very 
culpable for not uling the means of having his 
judgment better informed. 

It may be obferved, That there are truths, 
both fpeculative and moral, which a man left to 
himfelf would never difcover ; yet, when they 
are fairly laid before him, he owns and adopts 
them, not barely upon the authority of his teach- . 
er, but upon their own intrinfic evidence, and 
perhaps wonders that he could be fo blind as 
not to fee them before. 

Like a man whofe fon has been long abroad, 
and fuppofed dead. After many years the fon 
returns, and is not known by his father. He 
would never find that this is his fon. But, when 
he difcovers himfelf, the father foon finds, by 
many circumftances, that this is his fon who was 
loft, and can be no other perfon. 

Truth has an affinity with the human under- 
standing, which error hath not. And right 
principles of conduct have an affinity with a 
candid mind, which wrong principles have not. 


314 ESSAY III. [chap. 8. 

When they are fet before it in a juft light, a 
well difpofed mind recognifes this affinity, feels 
their authority, and perceives them to be ge- 
nuine. It was this, I apprehend, that led Plato 
to conceive that the knowledge we acquire in 
the preient ftate, is only reminifcence of what, 
in a former ftate, we were acquainted with. 

A man born and brought up in a favage na- 
tion, may be taught to purfue injury with un- 
relenting malice, to the deitruction of his ene- 
my. Perhaps when he does fo, his heart does 
not condemn him. 

Yet, if he be fair and candid, and, when the 
tumult of paffion i.s over, have the virtues of 
clemency, generofity, and forgivenefs, laid before 
him, as they were taught and exemplified by 
the divine Author of our religion, he will fee, 
that it is more noble to overcome himfelf, and 
fubdue a favage pafTage, than to deftroy his ene- 
. my. He will fee, that to make a friend of an 
fenemy, and to overcome evil with good, is the 
greateft of all victories, and gives a manly and 
a rational delight, with which the brutim paf- 
iion of revenge deferves not to be compared. He 
will fee that hitherto he acted like a man to his 
friends, but like a brute to his enemies ; now he 
knows how to make his whole character confift- 
ent, and one part of it to harmonize with ano- 

He muft indeed be a great ftranger to his own 
heart, and to the ftate of human nature, who 



does not fee that he has need of all the aid 
which his fituation affords him, in order to 
know how he ought to act in many cafes that 

Afecond obfervation is, Thatconfcience is pe- 
culiar to man. We fee not a veflige of it in 
brute-animals. It is one of thofe prerogatives 
by which we are railed above them. 

Brute-animals have many faculties in common 
with us. They fee, and hear, and tafte, and 
Tmell, and feel. They have their pleafures and 
pains. They have various inftincts and appe- 
tites. They have an affection for their offspring, 
and fome of them for their herd or flock. Dogs 
have a wonderful attachment to their matters, 
and give manifeft figns of fympathy with them. 

We fee, in brute-animals, anger and emula- 
tion, pride and fhame. Some bf them are ca- 
pable of being trained by habit, and by rewards 
and punifhments, to many things ufeful to man. 

All this muft be granted ; and if our percep- 
tion of what we ought, and what we ought not 
to do, could be refolved into any of thefe prin- 
ciples, or into any combination of them, it 
would'follow, that fome brutes are moral agents/ 
and accountable for their conduct. 

But common fenfe revolts againil this conclu- 
sion. A man who ferioufly charged a brute 
with a crime, would be laughed at. They may 
do actions hurtful to themfelves, or to man. 
They may have qualities, or acquire habits, that 


3 l6 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

lead to fuch actions ; and this \s all we mean 
when we call them vicious. But they cannot 
be immoral ; nor can they be virtuous. They 
are not capable of ielf-government ; and, when 
they act according to the paffion or habit which 
is ilrongeft at the time, they act according to the 
nature that God has given them, and no more 
can be required of them. 

They cannot lay down a rule to themfelves, 
which they are not to tranfgrefs, though prompt- 
ed by appetite, or ruffled by paffion. We fee 
no reafon to think that they can form the con- 
ception of a general rule, or of obligation to ad- 
here to it. 

They have no conception of a promife or con- 
tract ; nor can you enter into any treaty with 
them. They can neither affirm nor deny, nor 
refolve, nor plight their faith. If Nature had 
made them capable of thefe operations, we 
fhould fee the iigns of them in their motions 
and geftures. 

The moll fagacious brutes never invented a 
language, nor learned the ufe of one before in- 
vented. They never formed a plan of govern- 
ment, nor tranfmitted inventions to their pofte- 

Thefe things, and many others that are ob- 
vious to common obfervation, ihevv, that there 
is juft reafon why mankind have always confi- 
dered the brute-creation as deftitute of the no- 
bleil faculties with which God hath endowed 



man, and particularly of that faculty which 
makes us moral and accountable beings. 

The next obfervation is, That confcience iS 
evidently intended by Nature to be the imme- 
diate guide and director of our conduct, after 
we arrive at the years of understanding. 

There are many things which, from their na- 
ture and Structure, fhew intuitively the end for 
which they were made. 

A man who knows the Structure of a watch 
or clock, can have no doubt in concluding that 
it was made to meafure time. And he that 
knows the Structure of the eye, and the proper- 
ties of light, can have as little doubt whether 
it was made that we might fee by it. 

In the fabric of the body, the intention of 
the feveral parts is, in many instances, lb evi- 
dent, as to leave no pollibility of doubt. Who 
can doubt whether the mufcles were intended 
to move the parts in which they were inferted ? 
Whether the bones were intended to give 
Strength and fupport to the body ; and fome of 
them to guard the parts which they inclofe ? 

When we attend to the Structure of the mind, 
the intention of its various original powers is 
no lefs evident. Is it not evident, that the ex- 
ternal fenfes are given, that we may difcern 
thofe qualities of bodies which may be ufeful 
or hurtful to us. Memory, that we mav retain 
the knowledge we have acquired : Judgment 


3 1 8 ESSAY III. [chap. 8. 

and understanding, that we may diftinguifh 
what is true from what is falfe ? 

The natural appetites of hunger and thirft, 
the natural affections of parents to their off- 
fpring, and of relations to each other, the na- 
tural docility and credulity of children, the af- 
fections of pity and fympathy with the diftref- 
fed, the attachment we feel to neighbours, to 
acquaintance, and to the laws and conftitution 
of our country ; thefe are parts of our consti- 
tution, which plainly point out their end, fo 
that he muffc be blind, or very inattentive, who 
does not perceive it. Even the paffions of an- 
ger and refentment, appear very plainly to be a 
kind of defeniive armour, given by our Maker 
to guard us againft injuries, and to deter the in- 

Thus it holds generally with regard both to 
the intellectual and active powers of man, that 
the intention for which they are given is writ- 
ten in legible characters upon the face of them. 

Nor is this the cafe of any of them more evi- 
dently than of confeience. Its intention is ma- 
nifeftly implied in its office ; which is, to fhew 
us what is good, what bad, and what indifferent 
in human conduct. 

It judges of every action before it is done. 
For we can rarely act fo precipitately, but we 
have the confeiouinefs that what we are about 
to do is right, or wrong, or indifferent. Like 
the bodily eye, it naturally looks forward, 



though its attention may be turned back to the 

To conceive, as fome feem to have done, that 
its office is only to reflect on pad actions, and to 
approve or difapprove, is, as if a man mould 
conceive, that the office of his eyes is only to 
look back upon the road he has travelled, and 
to fee whether it be clean or dirty ; a miflake 
which no man can make who has made the pro- 
per life of his eyes. 

Confcience prefcribes meafures to every ap- 
petite, affection, and paffion, and fays to every 
other principle of action, So far thou mayeft go, 
but no farther. 

We may indeed tranfgrefs its dictates, but we 
cannot tranfgrefs them with innocence, nor even 
with impunity. 

We condemn ourfelves, or, in the language 
of Scripture, our heart condemns us, whenever 
we go beyond the rules of right and wrong 
which confcience prefcribes. 

Other principles of a&ion may have more 
ftrength, but this only has authority. Its fen- 
tence makes us guilty to ourfelves, and guilty 
in the eyes of our Maker, whatever other prin- 
ciple may be fet in opposition to it. 

It is evident therefore, that this principle has, 
from its nature, an authority to direct and de- 
termine with regard to our conduct ; to judge, 
to acquit, or to condemn, and even to punim ; 


3^6 * ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

an authority which belongs to no other princi- 
ple of the human mind. 

It is the candle of the Lord fet up within 
us, to guide our fteps. Other principles may 
urge and impel, but this only authorifes. Other 
principles ought to be controlled by this ; this 
may be, but never ought to be, controlled by 
any other, and never can be with innocence. 

The authority of confcience over the other 
active principles of the mind, I do not conlider 
as a point that requires proof by argument, but 
as felf-evident. For it implies no more than 
this, That in all cafes a man ought to do his 
duty. He only who does in all cafes what he 
ought to do, is the perfect man. 

Of this perfection in the human nature, the 
Stoics formed the idea, and held it forth in their 
writings as the goal to which the race of life 
ought to be directed. Their wife man was one 
in whom a regard to the bonejium fwallowed up 
every other principle of action. 

The wife man of the Stoics, like the perfed 
orator of the rhetoricians, was an ideal charac- 
ter, and was, in fome refpects, carried beyond 
nature ; yet it was perhaps the mod perfect mo- 
del of virtue, that ever was exhibited to the hea- 
then world ; and fome of thofe who copied af- 
ter it, were ornaments to human nature. 

The lafi obfervation is, That the moral facul- 
ty or confcience is both an active and an intel- 
lectual power of the mind. 



It is an active power, as every truly virtuous 
action muit be more or .lefs influenced by it. 
Other principles may concur with it, and lead 
the fame way ; but no action can be called mo- 
rally good, in which a regard to what is right 
has not fome influence. Thus a man who has 
no regard to jufiice, may pay his juft debt, from 
no other motive, but that he may not be thrown 
into prifon. In this action there is no virtue at 

The moral principle, in particular cafes, may 
be oppofed by any of our animal principles. 
Paffion or appetite may urge to what we know 
to be. wrong. In every inltance of this kind, 
the moral principle ought to prevail, and the. 
more difficult its conqueft is, it is the more glo- 

In fome cafes, a regard to what is right may 
be the fole motive, without the concurrence or 
oppofition of any other principle of action ; as 
when a judge or an arbiter determines a plea 
between two indifferent perfons, folely from a 
regard to juftice. 

Thus we fee, that confeience, as an active 
principle, fometimes concurs with other active 
principles, fometimes oppofes them, and fome- 
times is the fole principle of action. 

I endeavoured before to fhew,, that a regard 
to our own good upon the whole is not only a 
rational principle of action, but a leading prin- 
ciple, to which all our animal principles are 

Vol. III. X fubordiriate. 

.$22 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

fubordinate. As there are, therefore, two re- 
gulating or leading principles in the conftitution' 
of man, a regard to what,is beft for us upon 
the whole, and a regard to duty, it may be afk- 
ed, Which of thefe ought to yield if they hap- 
pen to interfere ? 

Some well meaning perfons have maintained, 
That all regard to ourfelves and to our own 
happinefs ought to be extinguifhed ; that we 
fhould love virtue for its own fake only, even 
though it were to be accompanied with eternal 

This feems to have been the extravagance of 
lome Myftics, which perhaps they were led in- 
to, in oppofition to a contrary extreme of the 
fchoolmen of the middle ages, who made the 
defire of good to ourfelves to be the fole motive 
to action, and virtue to be approvable only on 
account of its prefent or future reward. 

Jufcer views of human nature will teach, us 
to avoid both thefe extremes. 

On the one hand, the difinterefted love of 
virtue is undoubtedly the noblef! principle in 
human nature, and ought never to ftoop to any 

On the other hand, there is no active prin- 
ciple which God hath planted in our nature 
that is vicious in itfelf, or that ought to be era- 
dicated, even if it were in our power. 

They are all ufeful and neceffary in our pre- 
fent ftate. The perfection of human nature 



confiits, not in extinguifhing, but in reftraining 
them within their proper bounds, and keeping 
them in due fubordination to the governing 

As to the fuppofition of an oppoiition between 
the two governing principles, that is, between a 
regard to our happinefs upon the whole, and a 
regard to duty, this fuppofition is merely ima- 
ginary. There can be no fnch oppoiition. 

While the world is under a wife and benevo~ 
lent administration, it is impoflible, that any 
man fhould, in the ilTue, be a lofer by doing his 
duty. Every man, therefore, who believes in 
God, while he is -careful to do his duty, may 
fafely leave the care of his happinefs to Kim 
who made him. He is confcious thai he con- 
fults the laft moil effectually, by attending to 
the firft. 

Indeed, if we fuppofe a man to be an atheifl 
in his belief, and, at the fame time, by wrong 
judgment, to believe that virtue is contrary to 
his happinefs upon the whole, this cafe, as Lord 
Shaftesbury juftly obferves, is without reme- 
dy. It will be impoflible for the man to act, 
fo as not to contradict a leading principle of his 

Ox 1 

nature. He muft either facrifice his happinefs 
to virtue, or virtue to happinefs ; and is redu- 
ced to this miferable dilemma, whether it be 
bell to be a fool or a knave. 

This fhews the flrong connection between 

morality and the principles of natural religion ; 

X 1 as 

324 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 8. 

as the laft only can fecure a man from the pofli- 
bility of an appreheniion, that he may play the 
fool by doing his duty. 

Hence, even Lord Shaftesbury, in his gra- 
vel! work, concludes, That virtue without piety 
is incomplete. Without piety, it lofes its bright- 
eft example, its nobleft object, and its firmed 

I conclude with obferving, That confidence, 
or the moral faculty, is likewife an intellectual 

By it folely we have the original conceptions 
or ideas of right and wrong in human conduct. 
And of right and wrong, there are not* only 
many different degrees, but many different fpe- 
cies. Juilice and injuftice, gratitude and ingra- 
titude, benevolence and malice, .prudence and 
folly, magnanimity and meannefs, decency and 
indecency, are various moral forms, all compre- 
hended under the general notion of right and 
wrong in conduct, all of them objects of moral 
approbation or djfapprobation, in a greater or a 
leis degree. 

The conception of thefe, as moral qualities, 
we have by our moral faculty ; and by the fame 
faculty, when we compare them together, we 
perceive various moral relations among them. 
Thus, we perceive, that juftice is entitled to a 
fmall degree of praife, but injuftice to a high 
degree of blame j and the fame may be faid 
of gratitude and its contrary. When juftice 


tind gratitude interfere, gratitude muft give 
place to juftice, and unmerited beneficence muft 
give place to both. 

Many fuch relations between the various 
moral qualities compared together, are imme- 
diately difcerned by our moral faculty. A man 
needs only to confult his own heart to be con- 
vinced of them. . 

All our reafonings in morals, in natural ju- 
rifprudence, in the law of nations, as well as 
our reafonings about the duties of natural reli- 
gion, and about the moral government of the 
Deity, muft be grounded upon the didlates of 
our moral faculty, as firft principles. 

As this faculty, therefore, furnimes the hu- 
man mind with many of its original conceptions 
or ideas, as well as with the firft principles of 
many important branches of human knowledge, 
it may juftly be accounted an intellectual, as 
well as an active power of the mind. 



C H A P. I. 

T'be Notions of Moral Liberty and Neceffity fiated. 

lO Y the liberty cf a moral agent, I underfrand, 
JtjJp a power over the, determinations of his 
own will. 

If, in any aclion, he had power to will what 
he did, or not to will it, in that action he is 
free. But if, in every voluntary action, the de- 
termination of his will be the necelfary confe- 
quence of fomethjng involuntary in the ftate of 
his mind, or of fomething in his external cir- 
cumftances, he is not free ; he has not what I 
call the liberty of a moral agent, but is fubject 
to neceflity. 

This liberty fuppofes the agent to have un- 
derftanding and will ; for the determinations of 
the will are the fole object, about which this 
power is employed : and there can be no will 



without, at leaft, fuch a degree of underitanding 
as gives the conception of that which we will. 

The liberty of a moral agent implies, not on- 
ly a conception of what he wills, but fome de- 
gree of practical judgment or realbn. 

For, if he has not the judgment to difcern 
one determination to be* preferable to another, 
either in itfelf, or for fome purpofe which he 
intends, w 7 hat can be the ufe of a power to de- 
termine ? His determinations muft be made 
perfectly in the dark, without reaibn, motive or 
end. They can neither be right nor wrong, 
wife nor.foolifh. Whatever the confequences 
may be, they cannot be imputed to the agent, 
who had not the capacity of forefeeing them, 
or of perceiving any reafon for acling other wife 
thaniie did. 

We may perhaps be able to conceive a being 
endowed with power over the determinations of 
his will, without any light in his mind to direcl 
that power to fome end. But fuch power would 
be given in vain. No exercife of it could be 
either blamed or approved. As Nature gives 
no power in vain, I fee no ground to afcribe 
a power over the determinations of the will 
to any being who has no judgment to apply it 
to the direction of his conduct, no difcernment 
of what he ought or ought not to do. 

For that reafon, in this Effay, I fpeak only of 

the liberty of moral agents, who are capable of 

X 4 acting 


28 E S S A Y IV. [CHAP. 1, 

idling well or ill, wifely or foolifhly, ^ and this, 
for diftinctipn's fake, I mail call moral liberty. 

What kind, or what degree of liberty be- 
longs to brute animals, or to our own fpecies, 
before any ufe of reafon, I do not know. We 
acknowledge that they have not the power of 
ielf-government. Such of their actions as may 
be called voluntary, feem to be invariably de- 
termined by the.paflion or appetite, or affection 
of habit, which is flrongett at the time. 

This feems to be the law of their conftitution, 
to which they yield, as the inanimate creation 
does, without any conception cf the law, or any 
intention oft obedience. 

But of civil or moral government, which are 
addreiTed to the rational powers, and require a 
conception of the law and an intentional obe- 
dience, they are, in the judgment of all man- 
kind, incapable. Nor do 1 fee what end could 
be ferved by giving them a power over the de- 
terminations of their own will, unlefs to make 
them intractable by difcipline, which we fee 
they are not. 

The effect of moral liberty is, That it is in the 
power of the agent to do well or ill. This power, 
like every other gift of God, may be abufed. 
The right me of this gift of God is to do well 
and wifely, as far as his belt judgment can di- 
rect him, and thereby merit eiteem and appro- 
bation. The abufe of it is to act contrary to 
what he knows or fufpects to be his duty and 



his wifdom, and thereby juitly merit difappro- 
bation and blame. 

By necejjity, I underftand the want of that mo- 
ral liberty which I have above defined. 

If there can be a better and a worfe in actions 
on the fyftem of neceffity, let us fuppofe a man 
neceffiarily determined in all cafes to will and to 
do what is beft to be done, he would furely be 
innocent and inculpable. But, as far as I am 
able to judge, he would not be entitled to the 
eileetn and moral approbation of thofe who 
knew and believed this neceffity. What was, 
by an ancient author, faid of Cato, might in- 
deed be faid of him. He was good becaufe be 
could not be otherwife. But this faying, if un- 
der Hood literally and ftrictly, is not the praife 
of Cato, but of his conftitution, which was no 
more the work of Cato, than his exiftence. 

On the other hand, if a man be neceffarily de- 
termined to do ill, this cafe feems to me to move 
pity, but not difapprobation. He was ill, be- 
caufe he could not be otherwife. Who can 
blame him ? Neceffity has no law. 

If he knows that he acted under this neceffi- 
ty, has he not juft ground to exculpate himfelf? 
The blame, if there be any, is not in him, but 
in his conftitution. If he be charged by his 
Maker with doing wrong, may he not expoflu- 
late with him, and fay, Why haft thou made 
me thus ? I may be facrificed at thy pleafure, 
for the common 500 d, like a man that has the 


33° Assay lv. [chap. i. 

plague, but not for ill defert ; for thou know.eft 
that what I am charged with is thy work, and 
not mine. 

Such are my notions of moral liberty and ne- 
ceflity, and of the confequences infeparably 
connected with both the one and the other. 

This moral liberty a man may have, though 
it do not extend to all his actions, or e\ r en to all 
his voluntary actions. He does many things by 
initinct, many things by the force of habit with- 
out any thought at all, and confequently with- 
out will. In the hrft part of life, he has not the 
power of felf- government any more than the 
brutes. That power over the determinations 
of his own will, which belongs to him in ripe 
years, is limited, as -all his powers are; and it 
is perhaps beyond the reach of his understanding 
to define its limits with precifion. We can on- 
ly fay, in general, that it extends to every ac- 
tion for which he is accountable. 

This power is given by his Maker, and at his 
pleafure whofe gift it is, it may be enlarged or 
diminilhed, continued or withdrawn. No power 
in the creature can be independent of the Cre- 
ator. His hook is in its nofe ; he can give it 
line as far as he fees fit, and, when he pleafes, 
can rcftrain it, or turn it whitherfoever he will. 
Let this be always underitood, when we afcribe 
liberty to man, or to any created being. 

Suppofing it therefore to be true, That man 
is a free agent, it may be true, at the fame time, 



that his liberty may be impaired or loft, by dis- 
order of body or mind, as in melancholy, or in 
madnefs ; it may be impaired or loft by vicious 
habits ; it may, in particular cafes, be reftram- 
ed by divine interpolation. 

We call man a free agent in the fame way as 
we call him a reafopable agent. In. many things 
he is not guided by reafon, but by principles fl- 
milar to thofe of the brutes. His reafon is weak 
at beft. It is liable to be impaired or loft, by 
his own fault, or by other means. In like man- 
ner, he may be a free agent, though his freedom 
of action may have many fimilar limitations. 

The liberty I have defcribed has been repre- 
fented by fome Philofophers as inconceivable, 
and as involving an abfurdity. 

" Liberty, they fay, confifts only in a power 
*f to act as we will ; and it is impoilible to con- 
" ceive in any being a greater liberty than this. 
" Hence it follows, that liberty does not extend 
f* to the determinations of the will, but only to 
" the actions confequent to its determination, 
" and depending upon the will. To fay that 
" we have power to will fuch an action, is to 
u fay, that we may will it, if we will. This 
" fuppofes the will to be determined by a prior 
" will ; and, for the fame reafon, that will malt 
'• be determined by a wi.]l prior to it, and fo on 
t* in an infinite feries of wills, which is abfurd. 
" To act freely, therefore, can mean nothing 
" more than to act voluntarily ; and this is all 

" the 

332 ESSAY IV. [chap. I. 

** the liberty that can be conceived in man, or 
** in any being." 

This reafoning, firft, I think, advanced by 
Hobbes, has been very generally adopted by the 
defenders of neceffity. It is grounded upon a 
definition of liberty totally different from that 
which I have given, and therefore does not ap- 
ply to moral liberty, as above denned. 

But it is faid that this is the only liberty that 
is pofiible, that is conceivable, that does not in- 
volve an abfurdity. 

It is ftrange, indeed ! if the word liberty has 
no meaning but this one. I fhall mention three 
all very common. The objection applies to one 
of them, but to neither of the other two. 

Liberty is fometimes oppofed to external force 
or confinement of the body. Sometimes it is op- 
pofed to obligation by law, or by lawful autho- 
rity. Sometimes it is oppofed to neceffity. 

i. It is oppofed to confinement of the body 
by fuperior force. So we fay a prifoner is fet 
at liberty when his fetters are knocked off, and 
he is difcharged from confinement. This is the 
liberty defined in the objection ; and I grant 
that this liberty extends not to the will, neither 
does the confinement, becaufe the will cannot be 
confined by external force. 

2. Liberty is oppofci to obligation by law, or 
lawful authority. This liberty is a right to act 
one way cr another, in things which the law has 
neither commanded nor forbidden 5 and this li- 



berty is meant when we fpeak of a man's natu- 
ral liberty, his civil liberty, his Chriftian liber- 
ty. It is evident that this liberty, as well as the 
obligation oppofed to it, extends to the will: 
For it is the will to obey that makes obedience ; 
the will to tranfgrefs that makes a tranfgreffion* 
of the law. Without will there can be neither 
obedience nor tranfgreffion. Law fuppofes a 
power to obey or to tranfgrefs ; it does not take 
away this power, but propofes the motives of 
duty and of intereft, leaving the power to yield 
to them, or to take the confequence of tranf- 

3. Liberty is oppofed to ncceiiity, and in this 
fenfe it extends to the determinations of the will 
only, and not to what is confequent to the will. 
In every voluntary action, the determination 
of the will is the firft part of the action, upon 
which alone the moral eitimaticn of it depends. 
It has been made a queftion among Philofophers, 
Whether, in every instance, this determination 
be the necefTary confequence of the cenftitution 
of the perfon, and the circumftances in which he 
is placed ; or whether he had not power in ma- 
ny cafes, to determine this way or that ? 

This has, by fomc, been called the pbilofophi- 
cal notion of liberty and neceffity ; but it is by 
no means peculiar to Philofophers, The lowed 
of thfe vulgar have, in ail ages, been prone to 
have recourfe to this neceffity, to exculpate 
themfelves or their friends in what they do 


334 ESSAY IV. [chap. I. 

wrong, though, in the general tenor of their 
conduct, they act upon the contrary principle. 

Whether this notion of moral liberty be con- 
ceivable or not, every man muft judge for him- 
felf. To me there appears no difficulty in con- 
ceiving it. I confider the determination of the 
will as an effect:. This effect muff have a caufe 
which had power to produce it ; and the caufe 
muft be either the perfon himfelf, whofe will it 
is, or fome other being. The firft is as eafily 
conceived as the laft. If the perfon was the 
caufe of that determination of his own will, he 
was free in that action, and it is juftly imputed 
to him, whether it be good or bad. But, if 
another being was the caufe of this determina- 
tion, either by producing it immediately, or by 
means and infcruments under his direction, then 
the determination is the act and deed of that 
being, and is folely imputable to him. 

But it is laid, " That nothing is in our power 
" but what depends upon the will, and there- 
" fore the will itfelf cannot be in our power." 

I anfwer, That this is a fallacy ariling from 
taking a common faying in a fenfe which it ne- 
ver was intended to convey, and in a fenfe con- 
trary to what it neceffarily implies. 

In common life, when men fpeak of what is, 
or is not, in a man's power, they attend only to 
the external and vifible eifects, which only can 
be perceived, and which only can affect them. 
Of thefe, it is true, that nothing is in a man's 



power, but what depends upon his will, and this 
is all that is meant by this common faying. 

But this is fo far from excluding his will from 
being in his power, that it necefTarily implies it* 
For to fay that what depends upon the will is 
in a man's power, but the will is not in his 
power, is to fay that the end is in his power, but 
the means neceffary to that end are not in his 
power, which is a contradiction. 

In many proportions which we exprefs uni- 
verfally, there is an exception necefTarily im- 
plied, and therefore always underftood. Thus 
when we fay that all things depend upon God. 
God himfelf is necefTarily excepted. In like 
manner, when we fay, that all that is in our 
power depends upon the will, the will itfelf is 
necefTarily excepted : For if the will be not, no- 
thing elfe can be in our power. Every effect. 
mull be in the power of its caufe. The deter- 
mination of the will is an effect, and therefore 
rnuft be in the power of its caufe, whether that 
caufe be the agent himfelf, or fome other being. 

From what has been laid in this chapter, I 
hope the notion of moral liberty will be di- 
ftinctly underftood, and that it appears that this 
notion is neither inconceivable, nor involves any 
abfurditv or contradiction. 

G H A P. 

33<5 ESSAY iV. [chap. 2. 

. - .31 




Of the Fiords' Caiife and Effec~i, Action, and Ac- 
. tree Power. ' 

TH E writings upon liberty and necefijty 
have been much, darkened, by the ambi- 
guity of the words ufed in reafoning upon that 
fubject. The words caufe and effett* action, and 
active power, liberty and necejjity, are related to 
each ether : The meaning of one determines the 
meaning of the reft. When we attempt to de- 
fine them, we can only do it by fynonymous 
words which need definition as much. There 
is a Uriel ienfe in which thofe words mud be 
ufed, if we fpeak and reafon clearly about mo- 
ral liberty ; but to keep to this ftricl fenfe is 
difficult, becaufe in all languages, they have, by 
cuftorn, got a great latitude of signification. ,-» . 

As we cannot reafon about moral liberty, 
without uiing thofe ambiguous words, it is pro- 
per to point out, as distinctly as poilible, their 
proper and original meaning, in which they 
ought to be understood in treating of this fub- 
jecl:, and to fhew from what caufes they have 
become fo ambiguous in all languages, as to 
darken and embarrafs our reafonings upon it. 

Every thing that begins to exift, mull have 
a caufe of its exigence, which had power to 
give it exiftence. And every thing that under- 


goes any change, mu it have fome caufe of that 

That neither existence, nor- any mode of ex- 
istence, can begin without an efficient caufe, is. 
a principle that appears very early in the mind 
of man; and it is fo univerfal, and fo firmly root- 
ed in human nature, that the molt determined 
fcepticifm cannot eradicate it. 

It is upon this principle that we ground the 
rational belief of a deity. But that is not the 
only ufe to which we apply it. Every man's 
conduct is governed by it every day, and almoft 
every hour of his life. And if it were pofiible 
for any man to root out this principle from his 
mind, he mull give up every thing that is called 
common prudence, and be fit only to be confi- 
ned as in fane. 

From this principle it follows, That every 
thing which undergoes any change, mult either x 
be the efficient caufe of that change in itfelf, or 
it mult be changed by fome other being. 

In the firft cafe it is faid to have atiivc power, 
and to act in producing that change.' In the^l'- 
cond cafe it is merely pajjive, or is at~ied upon, 
and the active power is in that being only which 
produces the change. 

The name of a caufe and of an agent, is pro- 
perly given to that being only, which, by its 
active power, produces fome change in itfelf, or 
in fome other being. The change, whether it 
be of thought, of will, or of .motion, is the ef- 

Vol. III. Y f*6t. 

$$% ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 2. 

feci. Active power, therefore, is a quality in 
the caufe, which enables it to produce the effect. 
And the exertion of that active power in produ- 
cing the effect, is called acHon, agency, efficiency. 

In order to the production of any effect, there 
mull be in the caufe, not only power, but the 
exertion of that power : For power that is not 
exerted produces no effect. 

All that is neceffary to the production of any 
effect, is power in an efficient caufe to produce 
the effect, and the exertion of that power : For 
it is a contradiction to fay, that the caufe has 
power to produce the effect, and exerts that 
power, and yet the effect is not produced. The 
effect cannot be in his power unlefs all the means 
neceffary to its production be in his power. 

It is no lefs a contradiction to fay, that a caufe 
has power to produce a certain effect, but that 
he cannot exert that power : For power which 
cannot be exerted is no power, and is a contra- 
diction in terms. 

To prevent miftake, it is proper to obferve, 
That a being may have a power at one time 
which it has not at another. It may common- 
ly have a power, which, at a particular time, it 
has not. Thus, a man may commonly have 
power to walk or to run ; but he has not this 
power when afleep, or when he is confined by 
fuperior force. In common language, he may 
be faid to have a power which he cannot then 
exert. But this popular expreflion means only 



that he commonly has this power, and will have 
it when the caufe is removed which at prefent 
deprives him of it : For, when we fpeak ftricl- 
ly and philofophically, it is a contradiction to 
fay that he has this power, at that moment when 
he is deprived of it. 

Thefe, I think, are neceflary confequence9 
from the principle firil mentioned, That every 
change which happens in nature mull have an 
efficient caufe which had power to produce it, 

Another principle, which appears very early 
in the mind of man, is, That we are efficient 
caufes in our deliberate and voluntary actions. 

We are confcious of making an exertion, 
fometimes with difficulty, in order to produce 
certain effects. An exertion made deliberately 
and voluntarily, in order to produce an effect, 
implies a conviction that the effect is in our 
power. No man can deliberately attempt what 
he does not believe to be in his power. The 
language of all mankind, and their ordinary 
conduct in life, demonitrate, that they have a 
conviction of fome active power in themfelves 
to produce certain motions in their own and in 
other bodies, and to regulate and direct their 
own thoughts. This conviction we have {o 
early in life, that we have no remembrance 
when, or in what way, we acquired it. 

That fuch a conviction is at firft the necefTary 

refult of our constitution, and that it can never 

be entirely obliterated, is, I think, ncknowlcd- 

Y 2 ged 

34° ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 2. 

ged by one of the moft zealous defenders of ne- 
ceffity. Free DifcuJJion, &-c. p. 298. " Such are 
" the influences to which all mankind, without 
" diftinction, are expofed, that they necefTarily 
" refer actions (I mean refer them ultimately) 
" firfi of all to themfelves and others ; and it is a 
" long time before they begin to confider them- 
" felves and others as inftruments in the hand 
" of a fuperior agent. Confequently, the affo- 
" ciations which refer actions to themfelves, get 
" fo confirmed, that they are never entirely ob- 
" literated ; and therefore the common language, 
" and the common feelings of mankind, will be 
" adapted to the firft, the limited and imperfect, 
" or rather erroneous, view of things." 

It is very probable, that the very conception 
or idea of active power, and of efficient caufes, 
is derived from our voluntary exertions in pro- 
ducing effects ; and that, if we were not con- 
fcious of fuch exertions, we fhould have no con- 
ception at all of a caufe, or of active power, and 
confequently no conviction of the neceffity of a 
caufe of every change which we obferve in nature. 

It is certain that we can conceive no kind of 
active power but what is fimilar or analogous to 
that which we attribute to ourfelves \ that is, a 
power which is exerted by will and with under- 
ftanding. Our notion, even of Almighty power, 
is derived from the notion of human power, by 
removing from the former thofe imperfections 
and limitations to which the latter is fubjected. 



0^ J 

It may be difficult to explain the origin of 
our conceptions and belief concerning efficient 
caufes and active power. The common theory, 
that all our ideas are ideas of fenfation or re- 
flection, and that all our belief is a perception of 
the agreement or the difagreement of thofe ideas, 
appears to be repugnant, both to the idea of an 
efficient caufe, and to the belief of its neceffity. 

An attachment to that theory has led fome 
Philofophers to deny that we have any concep- 
tion of an efficient caufe, or of active power, be- 
caufe efficiency and active power are not ideas, 
either of fenfation or reflection. They main- 
tain, therefore, that a caufe is only fomething 
prior to the effect, and constantly conjoined 
with it. This is Mr Hume's notion of a caufe, 
and feems to be adopted by Dr Priestley, who 
fays, " That a caufe cannot be defined to be 
" any thing, but fuch previous circumflances as 
" are conjlantly followed by a certain effecl, the 
" conftancy of the refult making us conclude,' 
" that there mud be nfufficient reafon, in the 
" nature of the things, why it mould be pro- 
" duced in thofe circumflances." 

But theory ought to ftoop to fact, and not 
fact to theory. Every man who underftands the 
language knows,, that neither priority, nor con- 
flant conjunction, nor both taken together, im- 
ply efficiency. Every man, free from prejudice, 
mud aflent to what Cicero has faid : Itaque non 
Jic caufa intelligi debet, tit quod cuique antecedat 9 
id et caufa Jit, fed quod cuique efficienter antecedit. 
Y 3 The 

342 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 2. 

The very difpute, whether we have the con- 
ception of an efficient caufe, mews that we have. 
For though men may difpute about things 
which have no exiftence, they cannot difpute 
about things of which they have no conception. 

What has been faid in this chapter is intend- 
ed to fhew, That the conception of caufes, of 
action and of aclive power, in the Uriel and pro- 
per fenfe of thefe words, is found in the minds 
of all men very early, even in tne dawn of their 
rational life. It is therefore probable, that, in 
all languages, the words by which thefe concep- 
tions were exprefled were at firft diftincl and 
unambiguous, yet it is certain, that, among the 
mofl enlightened nations, thefe words are ap- 
plied to fo many things of different natures, andt 
ufed in fo vague a manner, that it is very diffi- 
cult to reafon about them diftinclly. 

This phenomenon, at firft view, feems very 
unaccountable. But a little reflection may fa- 
tisfy us, that it is a natural confequence of the 
flow and gradual progrefs of human knowledge. 

And fince the ambiguity of thefe words has 
fo great influence upon our reafoning about mo- 
ral liberty, and furniilies the flrongeft objections 
againfl it, it is not foreign to our fubject to fhew 
whence it arifes. When we know the caufes 
that have produced this ambiguity, we mail be 
lefs in danger of being milled by it, and the 
proper and ftrict meaning of the words will 
more evidently appear, 




Caufes of the Ambiguity of tbofe Words, 

WHEN we turn our attention to external 
objects, and begin to exercife our ra- 
tional faculties about them, we find, that there 
are Tome motions and changes in them, which 
we have power to produce, and that they have 
many which mull have fome other caufe. Ei- 
ther the objects mull have life and active power, 
as we have, or they mud be moved or changed 
by fomething that has life and active power, as 
external objects are moved by us. 

Our firft thoughts feem to be, That the ob- 
jects in which we perceive fuch motion have 
understanding and active power as we have. 

" Savages," fays the Abbe Pv.aynal, " where- 
V ever they fee motion which they cannot ac- 
" count for, there they fuppofe a foul." 

All men may be considered as favages in this 
refpect, until they are capable of inftruction, 
and of uling their faculties in a more perfect 
manner than favages do. 

The rational converfations of birds and beafts 
in tEsop's Fables do not fhock the belief of 
children. To them they have that probability 
which we require in an epic poem. Poets give 
us a great deal of pleafure, by clothing every 
object with intellectual and moral attributes in 
Y 4 metaphor 

344 ESSAY -IV. [chap. 3. 

metaphor and in other figures. May not the 
pieafure which we take in this poetical lan- 
guage, arife, in part, from its corrcfpondence 
with our earlieft fentiments ? 

However this may be, the Abbe Raynal's 
obfervation is fufficiently confirmed, both from 
fact, and from the ftructure of all languages. 

Rude nations do really believe fun, moon and 
liars, earth, fea and air, fountains and lakes, to 
have underftanding and active power. To pay 
homage to them, and implore their favour, is a 
kind of idolatry natural to lavages. 

All languages carry in their ftructure the 
marks of their being formed when this belief 
prevailed. The diliinction of verbs and parti- 
ciples into active and paffive, which is found in 
all languages, mult have been originally intend- 
ed to diftinguifh what is really active from what 
is merely paffive ; and, in all languages, we find 
active verbs applied to thofe objects, in which, 
according to the Abbe Raynal's obfervation, 
favages fuppofe a foul. 

Thus we fay the fun rifes and fets, and comes 
to the meridian, the moon changes, the fea ebbs 
and flows, the winds blow. Languages were 
formed by men who believed thefe objects to 
have life and active power in themfelves. It 
was therefore proper and natural to expreis 
their motions and changes by active verbs. 

There is no furer way of tracing the fenti- 
ments of nations before they have records than 



by the ftructure of their language, which, not- 
withstanding the changes produced in it by time, 
will always retain fome fignatures of the thoughts 
of thofe by whom it was invented. When we 
find the fame fentiments indicated in the ftruc- 
ture of all languages, thofe fentiments rauft have 
been common to the human fpecies when lan- 
guages were invented. 

When a few of fuperior intellectual abilities 
find leifure for fpeculation, they begin to philo- 
fophize, and foon difcover, that many of thofe 
objecls which, at firft, they believed to be intel- 
ligent and active, are really lifelefs and pafiive. 
This is a very important difcovery. It elevates 
the mind, emancipates from many vulgar fuper- 
ftitions, and invites to farther difcoveries of the 
fame kind. 

As philofophy advances, life and activity in 
natural objecls retires, and leaves them dead and 
inactive. Inftead of moving voluntarily, we find 
them to be moved neceffarily ; inftead of acting, 
we find them to be acted upon ; and Nature ap- 
pears as one great machine, where one wheel is 
turned by another, that by a third ; and how 
far this neceffary fucceilion may reach, the Phi- 
lofopher does not know. 

The vveaknefs of human reafon makes men 
prone, when they leave one extreme, to rum in- 
to the oppofite ; and thus philofophy, even in its 
infancy, may lead men from idolatry and poly- 
theifrn into atheifm, and from afcribing active 


34^ ESSAY IV. [chap. 3. 

power to inanimate beings, to conclude all things 
to be carried on by neceflity. 

Whatever origin we afcribe to the doctrines 
of atheifm and of fatal neceflity, it is certain, 
that both may be traced almoft as far back as 
phiiofophy ; and both appear to be the oppo- 
lites of the earlieil fentiments of men. 

It mud have been by the obfervation and rea- 
foning of the fpeculativeyHt*, that thofe objects 
were difcovered to be inanimate and inactive, to 
which the many afcribed life and activity. But 
while the few are convinced of this, they muft 
fpeak the language of the many in order to be 
understood. So we fee, that when the Ptole- 
maic fyftem of aftronomy, which agrees with 
vulgar prejudice and with vulgar language, has 
been univerfally rejected by Philofophers, they 
continue to ufe the phrafeology that is ground- 
ed upon it, not only in fpeaking to the vulgar, 
but in fpeaking to one another. They fay, The 
fun rifes and fets, and moves annually through 
all the ligns of the zodiac, while they believe 
that he never leaves his place. 

In like manner, thofe active verbs and parti- 
ciples, which were applied to the inanimate ob- 
jects of nature, when they were believed to be 
really active, continue to be applied to them af- 
ter they are difcovered to be paflive. 

The forms of language, once eftablifhed by 
cuftom, are not fo ealily changed as the notions 
on which they were originally founded. While 



the founds remain, their fignification is gradual- 
ly enlarged or altered. This is fometimes found, 
even in thofe fciences in which the fignification 
of words is the molt accurate and precife. Thus, 
in arithmetic, the word number, among the an- 
cients, always lignified fo many units, and it 
would have been abfurd to apply it either to 
unity or to any part of an unit ; but now we 
call unity, or any part of unity, a number. With 
them, multiplication always increafed a number, 
and divifion diminifhed it ; but we fpeak of 
multiplying by ;i fra&ion, which diminifhes, 
and of dividing by a fraction, which increafes 
the number. We fpeak of dividing or multi- 
plying by unity, which neither diminifhes nor 
increafes a number. Thefe forms of expref- 
fion, in the ancient language, would have been 

By fuch changes, in the meaning of words, 
the language of every civilized nation refembles 
old furniture new modelled, in which many 
things are put to ufes for which they were not 
originally intended, and for which they are not 
perfectly fitted. 

This is one great caufe of the imperfection of 
language, and it appears very remarkably in 
thofe verbs and participles which are active in 
their form, but are frequently ufed fo as to have- 
nothing active in their fignification. 

Hence we are authorifed by cuflom to afcribc 
action and active power to things which we be- 

34$ ESSAY iv. [chap. 3. 

lieve to be paffive. The proper and original fig- 
nification of every word, which at firft fignified 
action and caufation, is buried and loft under 
that vague meaning which cuftom has affixed 
to it. 

That there is a real diftinction, and perfect 
opposition, between acting and being acted up- 
on, every man may be fatisfied who is capable 
of reflection. And that this diftinction is per- 
ceived by all men as foon as they begin to rea- 
fon, appears by the diftinction between active 
and paffive verbs, which is original in all lan- 
guages, though, from the caufes that have been 
mentioned, they come to be confounded in the 
progreis of human improvement. 

Another way in which philofophy has contri- 
buted very much to the ambiguity of the words 
under our consideration, deferves to be mention- 

The firft ftep into natural philofophy, and 
what hath commonly been confidered as its ul- 
timate end, is the inveftigation of the caufes of 
the phasnomena of nature ; that is, the caufes of 
thole appearances in nature which are not the 
effects of human power. Felix qui potuit rerum 
cognofcere caufas, is the fentiment of every mind 
that has a turn to fpeculation. 

The knowledge of the caufes of things pro- 
mifes no lefs the enlargement of human power 
than the gratification of human curiofity ; and 
therefore, among the enlightened part of man- 


kind, this knowledge has been purfued in all 
ages with an avidity proportioned to its impor- 

In nothing does the difference between the in- 
tellectual powers of man and thofe of brutes ap- 
pear more conTpicuous than in this. For in 
them we perceive no defire to imeftigate the 
caufes of things, nor indeed any lign that they 
have the proper notion of a caufe. 

There is reafon, however, to apprehend, that, 
in this inveftigation, men have wandered much 
in the dark, and that their fuccefs has by no 
means been equal to their delire and expecta- 

We eafily difcover an eftablifhed order and 
connection in the phaenomena of nature. We 
learn, in many cafes, from what has happened, 
to know what will happen. The difcoveries of 
this kind, made by common obfervation, are 
many, and are the foundation of common pru- 
dence in the conduct of life. Philofophers, by 
more accurate obfervation and experiment, have 
made many more ; by which arts are improved, 
and human power, as well as human knowledge, 
is enlarged. 

But, as to the real caufes of the phaenomena 
of nature, how little do we know ! All our know- 
ledge of things external, muft be grounded up- 
on the information of our fenfes ; but caufation 
and active power are not objects of fenfe \ nor 
is that always the caufe of a phenomenon which 


35° ESSAY iv* [chap. 3. 

is prior to it, and conftantly conjoined with it ; 
otherwife night would be the caufe of day, and 
day the caufe of the following night. 

It is to this day problematical, whether all the 
phenomena of the material fyftem be produced 
by the immediate operation of the Firft Caufe, 
according to the laws which his wifdom deter- 
mined, or whether fubordinate caufes are em- 
ployed by him in the operations of nature ; and, 
if they be, what their nature, their number, and 
their different offices are ? And whether, in all 
cafes, they act. by commiffion, or, in fome, ac- 
cording to their difcretion ? 

When we are fo much in the dark with re- 
gard to the real caufes of the phaenomena of 
nature, and have a ftrong defire to know them, 
it is not ftrange, that ingenious men fhould form 
numberlefs conjectures and theories, by which 
the foul, hungering for knowledge, is fed with 
chaff inflead of wheat. 

In a very ancient fyftem, love and ft rife were 
made the caufes of things. In the Pythagorean 
and Platonic fyftem, matter, ideas, and an intel- 
ligent mind. By Aristotle, matter, form, and 
privation. Des Cartes thought, that matter, 
and a certain quantity of motion given at firft 
by the Almighty, are fufficient to account for 
all the phenomena of the natural world. Leib- 
nitz, that the univerfe is made up of monades, 
active and precipient, which, by their active 



power received at rlrft, produce all the changes 
they undergo. 

While men thus wandered in the dark in fearch 
of caufes, unwilling to confefs their difappoint- 
ment, they vainly conceived every thing they 
{tumbled upon to be a caufe, and the proper 
notion of a caufe is loft, by giving the name to 
numberlefs things which neither are nor can be 

This confufion of various things under the 
name of caufes, is the more eafily tolerated, be- 
caufe however hurtful it may be to found phi- 
lofophy, it has little influence upon the concerns 
of life. A conftant antecedent, or concomitant, 
of the phenomenon whofe caufe is fought, may 
anfwer the purpofe of the inquirer, as well as 
if the real caufe were known. Thus a failor 
delires to know the caufe of the tides, that he 
may know when to expecl high water : He is 
told that it is high water when the moon is fo 
many hours pail the meridian : And now he 
thinks he knows the caufe of the tides. What 
he takes for the caufe anfwers his purpofe, and 
his miftake does him no harm. 

Thofe philofophcrs feem to have had the juri- 
ed views of nature, as well as of the weaknefs 
of human underflanding, who, giving up the 
pretence of difcovering the caufes of the opera- 
tions of nature, have applied themfelves to dis- 
cover, by obfervation and experiment, the rules, 


352 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 3. 

or laws of nature according to which the phe- 
nomena of nature are produced. 

In compliance with cuftom, or perhaps, to 
gratify the avidity of knowing the caufes of 
things, we call the laws o£ nature caufes and ac- 
tive powers. So we fpeak of the powers of gra- 
vitation, of magnetifm, of electricity. 

We call them caufes of many of the phaeno- 
mena of nature ; and fuch they are efteemed by 
the ignorant, and by the half learned. 

But thofe of juiter difcernment fee, that laws 
of nature are not agents. They are not endow- 
ed with active power, and therefore cannot be 
caufes in the proper fenfe. They are only the 
rules according to which the unknown caufe 

Thus it appears, that our natural defire to 
know the caufes of the phenomena of nature, 
our inability to difcover them, and the vain theo- 
ries of Philofophers employed in this ' fearch, 
have made the word caufe, and the related 
words, fo ambiguous, and to fignify fo many 
things of different natures, that they have in a 
manner loft their proper and original meaning, 
and yet we have no other words to exprefs it. 

Every thing joined with the effect, and prior 
to it, is called its caufe. An inftrument, an oc- 
cafion, a reafon, a motive, an end, are called 
caufes. And the related words effect, agent, 
power, are extended in the fame vague manner. 



Were it not that the terms caufe and agent 
have loft their proper meaning, in the crowd of 
meanings that have been given them, we mould 
immediately perceive a contradiction in the 
terms necejfary caufe and necejjary agent* And 
although the loofe meaning of thofe words is 
authorized by cuftom, the arbiter of language, 
and therefore cannot be cenfured, perhaps can- 
not always be avoided, yet we ought to be up- 
on our guard, that we beYiot mifled by it to con- 
ceive things to be the fame which are eflential- 
ly different. 

To fay that man is a free agent, is no more 
than to fay, that in fome inftances he is truly 
an agent, and a caufe, and i9 not merely acted 
upon as a paffive inftrument^ On the contrary, 
to fay that he acts from neceflity, is to fay that 
he does not act at all, that he is no agent, and 
that, for any thing we know, there is only one 
agent in the univerfe, who does every thing that 
is done, whether it be good or ill. 

If this neceffity be attributed even to the Dei- 
ty, the confequence mufl be, that there neither 
is, nor can be, a caufe at all ; that nothing acts, 
but every thing is acted. upon; nothing moves, 
but every thing is moved ; all is paffion without 
action ; all inftrument without an agent ; and 
that every thing that is, or was, or mall be, has 
that necefTary exiftence in its feafon, which we 
commonly confider as the prerogative of the 
Firft Caufe. 

Vol. III. Z This 

354 ESSAY IV. [chap. 3. 

This I take to be the genuine, and the moll 
tenable, fyftem of neceffity. It was the fyftem 
of Spinoza, though he was not the firft that 
advanced it ; for it is very ancient. And if this 
fyftem be true, our reafoning to prove the exist- 
ence of a firft caufe of every thing that begins 
to exift, muft be given up as fallacious. 

If it be evident to the human underftanding, 
as I take it to be, That what begins to exift 
muft have an "efficient caufe, which had power 
to give or not to give it exiftence ; and if it be 
true, that effects well and wifely fitted for the 
beft purpofes, demonftrate intelligence, wifdOm, 
and goodnefs, in the efficient caufe, as well as 
power, the proof of a Deity from thefe princi- 
ples is very eafy and obvious to all men that can 

If, on the other hand, our belief that every 
thing that begins to exift has a caufe, be got on- 
ly by experience y and if, as Mr Hume main- 
tains, the only notion of a caufe be fomething 
prior to the effect, which experience has fhewn 
to be conftantly conjoined with fuch an effect, I 
fee not how, from thefe principles, it is poffible 
to prove the exiftence of an intelligent caufe of 
the univerfe. 

Mr Hume feems to me to reafon juftly from 
his definition of a caufe, when, in the perfon of 
an Epicurean, he maintains, that with regard to 
a caufe of the univerfe, we can conclude no- 
thing ; becaufe it is a fingular effect. We have 



no experience that fuch effects are always con- 
joined with fuch a -caufe. Nay, the caufe which 
we aflign to this effect, is a caufe which no man 
hath feen, nor can fee, and therefore experience 
cannot inform us that it has ever been conjoined 
with any effect. He feems to me to reafon juft- 
ly from his definition of a caufe, when he main- 
tains, that any thing may be the caufe of any 
thing ; ffnce priority and conftant conjunction 
is all that can be conceived in the notion of a 

Another zealous defender of the doctrine of 
neceflity fays, that " A caufe cannot be defined 
" to be any thing but fuch previous circumflances 
" as are conjlantly followed by a certain effect, 
" the conflancy of the refult making us con- 
" elude, that there muft be %. fujjicient reafon, in 
" the nature of things, why it mould be produ- 
" ced in thofe circumflances." 

This feems to me to be Mr Hume's definition 
of a caufe in other words, and neither more nor 
lefs ; but I am far from thinking that the au- 
thor of it will admit the confequences which 
Mr Hume draws from it, however neceffary they 
may appear to others, 

lo ct .1 
% 2 CHAR 

336 ESSAY IV. [chap. 4. 


Of the Influence of Motives* 

THE modern advocates for the doctrine of 
neceffity lay the ftrefs of their caufe upott 
the influence of motives. 

" Every deliberate action, they fay, mud 
" have a motive. When there is no motive on 
" the other fide, this motive muft determine the 
" agent : When there are contrary motives, the 
" ftrongeft muft prevail : We reafon from mens 
" motives to their actions, as we do from other 
" caufes to their effects : If man be a free agent, 
" and be not governed by motives, all his ac- 
" tions muft be mere caprice, rewards and pu- 
" nilhments can have no effect, and fuch a be- 
" ing muft be abfolutely ungovernable." 

In order therefore to underftand diftinctly, in 
what fenfe we afcribe moral liberty to man, it is 
neceffary to underftand what influence we allow 
to motives. To prevent mifunderftanding, which 
has been very common upon this point, I offer 
the following obfervations : 

1. I grant that all rational beings are influen- 
ced, and ought to be influenced, by motives. 
But the influence of motives is of a very differ- 
ent nature from that of efficient caufes. They 
are neither caufes nor agents. They fuppofe an 
efficient caufe, and can do nothing without it. 



We cannot, without abfurdity, fuppofe a motive, 
either to act, or to be acted upon \ it is equally 
incapable of action and of paffion ; becaufe it 
is not a thing that exifts, but a thing that is con- 
ceived \ it is what the fchoolmen called an ens 
rationis. Motives, therefore, may influence to 
action, but they do not act. They may be com- 
pared to advice, or exhortation, which leaves a 
man ftill at liberty. For in vain is advice given 
when there is not a power either to do, or to 
forbear, what it recommends. In like manner, 
motives fuppofe liberty in the agent, otherwife 
they have no influence at all. 

It is a law of nature, with reipect to matter, 
That every motion, and change of motion, is 
proportional to the force impreffed, and in the 
direction of that force. The fcheme of necef- 
fity fuppofes a fimilar law to obtain in all the 
actions of intelligent beings ; which, with little 
alteration, may be exprefTed thus : Every action, 
or change of action, in an intelligent being, is 
proportional to the force of motives imprened, 
and in the direction of that force. 

The law of nature refpecting matter, is 
grounded upon this principle, That matter is 
an inert, inactive fubftance, which does not act, 
but is acted upon ; and the law of neceffity murt 
be grounded upon the fuppolition, That an in- 
telligent being is an inert, inactive fubftance 
which does not act, but is acted upon. 

X 3 2. Rational 

358 ESSAY. IV. [CHAP. 4. 

2. Rational beings, in proportion as they are 
wife and good, will act according to the bell 
motives ; and every rational being, who does 
otherwife, abufes his liberty. The mod perfect 
being, in every thing where there is a right and 
a wrong, a better and a worfe, always infallibly 
acts according to the bell motives. This indeed 
is little elfe than an identical propofition : For 
it is a contradiction to fay, That a perfect being 
does what is wrong or unreafonable. But to fay, 
that he does not act freely, becaufe he always 
does what is belt, is to fay, That the proper ufe 
of liberty deflroys liberty, and that liberty eon- 
fills only in its abufe. 

The moral perfection of the Deity confifls, 
not in Shaving no power to do ill, otherwife, as 
Dr Clark juftly obferves, there would be no 
ground to thank him for his goodnefs to us any 
more than for his eternity or immenfity ; but 
his moral perfection confifls in this, that, when 
he has power to do every thing, a power which 
cannot be refilled, he exerts that powder only in 
doing what is wifeft and belt. To be fubject to 
neceffity is to have no power at all ; for power 
and neceffity are oppofites. We grant, there- 
fore, that motives have influence, limilar to that 
of advice or perfuafion ; but this influence is 
perfectly confident with liberty, and indeed fup- 
pofes liberty. 

3. Whether every deliberate action mull have 
a motive, depends on the meaning we put upon 



the word deliberate. If, by a deliberate action, 
we mean an action wherein motives are weigh- 
ed, which be the original meaning of 
the word, furely there muft be motives, and con- 
trary motives, otherwife they could not be 
weighed. But if a deliberate action means on- 
ly, as it commonly does, an action done by a 
cool and calm determination of the mind, with 
forethought and will, I believe there are innu- 
merable fuch actions done without a motive. 

This muft be appealed to every man's con- 
fcioufnefs. I do many trifling actions every day, 
in which, upon the mod careful reflection, I am 
confcious of no motive ; and to fay that I may 
be influenced by a motive of which I am not 
confcious, is, in the firft place, an arbitrary fup- 
pofition without any evidence, and then,. it is to 
fay, that I may be convinced by an argument 
which never entered into my thought. 

Cafes frequently occur, in which an end, that 
is of fome importance, may be anfwered equally 
well by any one of feveral different means. In 
fuch cafes, a man who intends the end finds not 
the lead difficulty in taking one of thefe means, 
though he be firmly perfuaded, that it has no 
title to be preferred to any of the others. 

To fay that this is a cafe that cannot happen, 
is to contradict the experience of mankind ; for 
furely a man who has occafion to lay out a mil- 
ling, or a guinea, may have two hundred that 
arc of equal value, both to the giver and to the 

Z 4 receiver. 

3^0 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 4, 

teceiver, any one of which will anfwer his pur- 
pofe equally well. To fay, that, if fuch a cafe 
fhould happen, the man could not execute his 
purpofe, is ftill more ridiculous, though it have 
the authority of fome of the fchoolmen, who de- 
termined, that the afs, between two equal bun- 
dles of hay, would ftand ftill till it died of hun- 

s e r- 

If a man could not acfc without a motive, he 
would have no power at all ; for motives are not 
in our power ; and he that has not power over 
a neceifary mean, has not power over the end. 

That an a&ion, done without any motive, can 
neither have merit nor demerit, is much infilled 
on by the writers for neceffity, and triumphant- 
ly, as if it were the very hinge of the con£ro- 
verfy. I grant it to be a felf-evident propor- 
tion, and I know no author that ever deniep! it. 

How infignificant foever, in moral eftimation, 
the actions may be which are done without any 
motive, they are of moment in the queftion con- 
cerning moral liberty. For, if there ever was 
any action of this kind, motives are not the fole 
caufes of human actions. And if we have the 
power of acting without a motive, that power, 
joined to a weaker Imotive, may counterbalance 
a ftronger. 

4. It can never be proved, That when there 
is a motive on one fide only, that motive mull 
determine the action. 



According to the laws of reafoning, the proof 
is incumbent on thofe who hold the affirmative ; 
and I have never leen a fhadow of argument, 
which does not take for granted the thing in 
queflion, to wit, that motives are the fole caufes 
of a&ions. 

Is there no fuch thing as wilfulnefs, caprice 
or obftinacy, among mankind ? If there be not, 
it is wonderful that they mould have names in 
all languages. If there be fuch things, a lingle 
motive, or even many motives, may be refitted. 

5. When it is faid, That of contrary motives 
the ftrongeft always prevails, this can neither be 
affirmed nor denied with underftanding, until 
we know diflinctly what is meant by the ftrong- 
eft motive. 

I do not find, that thofe who have advanced 
this as a felf-evident axiom, have ever attempted 
to explain what they mean by the ftrongeft mo- 
tive, or have given any rule by which we may 
judge which of two motives is the ftrongeft. 

How lhall we know whether the ftrongeft mo- 
tive always prevails, if we know not which is 
ftrongeft ? There muft be fome teft by which 
their ftrength is to be tried, fome balance in 
which they may be weighed, otherwife, to fay 
that the ftrongeft motive always prevails, is to 
fpeak without any meaning. We muft there- 
fore fearch for this teft or balance, fince they 
who have laid fo much ftrefs upon this axiom, 
have left us wholly in the dark as to its mean- 

3 ing. 

3^2 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 4» 

ing. I grant, that when the contrary motives 
are of the fame kind, and differ only in quan- 
tity, it may be eafy to fay which is the flrong- 
eft. Thus a bribe of a thoufand pounds is a 
ftronger motive than a bribe of a hundred 
pounds. But when the motives are of different 
kinds, as money and fame, duty and worldly 
intereft, health and flrength, riches and honour, 
by what rule fhall we judge which is the flrong- 
eft motive ? 

Either we meafure the flrength of motives, 
merely by their prevalence, or by fome other 
ilandard diftinct from their prevalence. 

If we meafure their flrength merely by their 
prevalence, and by the flrongeft motive mean 
only the motive that prevails, it will be true in- 
deed that the flrongeft motive prevails ; but the 
proportion will be identical, and mean no more 
than that the flrongefl motive is the flrongeft 
motive. From this furely no conclufion can be 

If it mould be faid, That by the flrength of a 
motive is not meant its prevalence, but the caufe 
of its prevalence ; that we meafure the caufe by 
the effect, and from the fuperiority of the effecl 
conclude the fuperiority of the caufe, as we con- 
clude that to be the heavieft weight which bears 
down the fcale : I anfwer, That, according to 
this explication of the axiom, it takes for grant- 
ed that motives are the caufes, and the fole cau- 
fes of actions. Nothing is left to the Pgent, but 



to be acted upon by the motives, as the balance 
is by the weights. The axiom fuppofes, that 
the agent does not act, but is acted upon ; and, 
from this fuppofition, it is concluded that he 
does not act. This is to reafon in a circle, or 
rather it is not reafoning but begging the que- 
ftion. *j 

Contrary motives may very properly be com- 
pared to advocates pleading the oppofite fides of 
a caufe at the bar. It would be very weak rea- 
foning to fay, that fuch an advocate is the mod 
powerful pleader, becaufe fentence was given on 
his fide. The fentence is in the power of the 
judge, not of the advocate. It is equally weak 
reafoning, in proof of neceffity, to fay, fuch a 
motive prevailed, therefore it is the ftrongeft ; 
iince the defenders of liberty maintain that the 
determination was made by the man, and not 
by the motive. 

We are therefore brought to this iffue, that 
unlefs fome meafure of the ilrength of motives 
can be found diftinct from their prevalence, it 
cannot be determined, whether the ftrongeft mo- 
tive always prevails or not. If fuch a meafure 
can be found and applied, we may be able to 
judge of the truth of this maxim, but not other- 

Every thing that can be called a motive, is 
addreffed either to the animal or to the rational 
part of our nature. Motives of the former kind 
are common to us with the brutes ; thofe of the 


364 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 4. 

latter are peculiar to rational beings. We fhall 
beg leave, for diftindtion's fake, to call the for- 
mer, animal motives, and the latter, rational. 

Hunger is a motive in a dog to eat ; fo is it 
in a man. According to the ftrength of the ap- 
petite, it gives a ftronger or a weaker impulfe to 
eat. And the fame thing may be faid of every 
other appetite and paffion. Such animal motives 
give an impulfe to the agent, to which he yields 
with eafe ; and, if the impulfe be ftrong, it can- 
not be refilled without an effort which requires 
a greater or a lefs degree of felf- command. Such 
motives are not addreffed to the rational powers. 
Their influence is immediately upon the will. 
We feel their influence, and judge of their 
ftrength, by the confcious effort which is necef- 
fary to refill them. 

When a man is acted upon by contrary mo- 
tives of this kind, he finds it eafy to yield to the 
flrongefl. They are like two forces pufhing him 
in contrary directions. To yield to the flrong- 
efl, he needs only to be paflive. By exerting 
his own force, he may refift ; but this requires 
an effort of which he is confcious. The ftrength 
of motives of this kind is perceived, not by our 
judgment, but by our feeling ; and that is the 
itrongefl of contrary motives, to which he can 
yield with eafe, or which it requires an effort of 
felf-command to refift -, and this we may call 
the animal tejl of the ftrength of motives. 



If it be afked, whether, in motives of this 
kind, the firongeft always prevails? I anfwer, 
That in brute-animals I believe it does. They 
do not appear to have any felf- command ; ah 
appetite or paflion in them is overcome only by 
a flronger contrary one. On this account, they 
are not accountable for their actions, nor can 
they be the fubje&s of law. 

But in men who are able to exercife their ra- 
tional powers, and have any degree of felf-com- 
mand, the firongeft animal motive does not al- 
ways prevail. The flefti does not always prevail 
againft the fpirit, though too often it does. And 
if men were neceffarily determined by the firong- 
eft animal motive, they could no more be ac- 
countable, or capable of being governed by law,, 
than brutes are. 

Let us next confider rational motives, to which 
the name of motive is more commonly and more 
properly given. Their influence is upon the 
judgment, by convincing us that fuch an act ion 
ought to be done, that it is our duty, or condu- 
cive to our real good, or to fome end which we 
have determined to purfue. 

They do not give a blind impulfe to the will 
as animal motives do. They convince, but they 
do not impel, unlefs, as may often happen, they 
excite fome paffion of hope, or fear, or defire. 
Such paflions may be excited by conviction, and 
may operate in its aid as other animal motives 
do. But there may be conviction without paf- 
lion ; 

366 ESSAY IV. "[CHAP. 4 

fion ; and the conviction of what we ought to 
do, in order to fome end which we have judged 
fit to be purfued, is what I call a rational motive. 

Brutes, I think, cannot be influenced by fuch 
motives. They have not the conception of ought 
and ought not. Children acquire thefe concep- 
tions as their rational powers advance ; and they 
are found in all of ripe -age, who have the hu- 
man faculties. 

If there be any competition between rational 
motives, it is evident, that the ftrongeft, in the 
eye of reafon, is that which it is moil our duty 
and our real happinefs to follow. Our duty and 
our real happinefs are ends which are insepa- 
rable : and they are the ends which every man, 
endowed with reafon, is confcious he ought to 
purine in preference to all others. This we 
may call the rational tejl of the ftrength of mo= 
tives. A motive which is the ftrongeft, accord- 
ing to the animal teft, may be, and very often 
is, the wealed according to the rational. 

The grand and the important competition of 
contrary motives is between the animal, on the 
one hand, and the rational on the other. This 
is the conflict between the flefli and the fpirit, 
upon the event of which the character of men 

If it be aiked, which of thefe is the ftrongeft 
motive ; The anfwer is, That the frit is com- 
monly ftrongeft, when they are tried by the ani- 
mal teft. If they were not fo, human life would 



be no ftate of trial. It would not be a warfare^ 
nor would virtue require any effort or felf-com- 
mand. No man would have any temptation to 
do wrong. But, when we try the contrary mo- 
tives by the rational teftj it is evident, that the 
rational motive is always the ftrongeft. 

And now, I think, it appears, that the ftrong- 
eft motive, according to either of the tefts I have 
mentioned, does not always prevail. 

In every wife and virtuous action, the motive 
that prevails is the ftrongeft, according to the ra- 
tional teft, but commonly the weakeft according 
to the animal. In every foolifh, and in every 
vicious action, the motive that prevails is com- 
monly the ftrongeft according to the animal teft, 
but always the weakeft according to the rational, 

6. It is true, that we reafon from mens mo- 
tives to their actions, and, in many cafes, with 
great probability, but never with abfolute cer- 
tainty. And to infer from this, that men are 
neceffarily determined by motives, is very weak 

For, let us fuppofe, for a moment, that men 
have moral liberty, I would a£k, what ufe may 
they be expected to make of this liberty ? It 
may furely be expected, that, of the various ac- 
tions within the fphere of their power, they 
will choofe what pleafes them moft for the pre- 
fent, or what appears to be moft for their real, 
though diftant good. When there is a compe- 
tition between thefe motives, the foolifh will 

j prefer 

%6S essay iv. [chap. 4i 

prefer prefent gratification ; the wife, the great- 
er and more diftant good. 

Now, is not this the very way in which we 
fee men act ? Is it not from the prefumption 
that they ad in this way, that we reafon from 
their motives to their actions ? Surely it is. Is 
it not weak reafoning, therefore, to argue, that 
men have not liberty, becaufe they act in that 
very way in which they would act if they had 
liberty ? It would furely be more like reafon- 
ing, to draw the contrary conclulion from the 
fame premifes. 

7. Nor is it better reafoning to conclude, that, 
if men are not neceffarily determined Jyy mo- 
tives, all their actions muft be capricious. 

To refift the ftrongeft animal [motives when 
duty requires, is fo far from being capricious, 
that it is, in the higheft degree, wife and vir-* 
tuous. And we hope this is often done by good 

To act againft rational motives, mufl always 
be foolifh, vicious, or capricious. And it cannot 
be denied that there are too many fuch actions 
done. But is it reafonable to conclude, that 
becaufe liberty may be abufed by the foolifh 
and the vicious, therefore it can never be put to 
its proper ufe, which is to act wifely and vir- 
tuoufly ? 

8. It is equally unreafonable to conclude, 
That if men are not neceffarily determined by 
motives, rewards and punifliments would have 



no effect. With wife men they will have their 
due effect ; but not always with the foolifh and 
the vicious. 

Let us coniider what effect rewards and pu- 
nifhments do really, and in fact, produce, and 
what may be inferred from that effect, upon each 
of the oppofite fyftems of liberty and of necef- 

I take it for granted that, in fact, the beft and 
wifeft laws, both human and divine, are often 
tranfgrefTed, notwithstanding the rewards and 
punifhments that are annexed to them. If any 
man Ihould deny this fact, I know not how to 
reafon with him. 

From this fact, it may be inferred with cer- 
tainty, upon the fuppofition of necellity, That, 
in every inflance of tranfgreffion, the motive of 
reward or punimment was not of fufficient 
ftrength to produce obedience to the law. This 
implies a fault in the lawgiver ; but there can 
be no fault in the tranfgreffor, who acts mecha- 
nically by the force of motives. We might as 
well impute a fault to the balance, when it does 
not raife a weight of two pounds by the force of 
one pound. 

Upon the fuppofition of neceffity, there can 
be neither reward nor punifhment, in the pro- 
per fenfe, as thofe words imply good and ill de- 
fert. Reward and punifhment are only tools 
employed to produce a mechanical effect. Vv hen 
Vol. III. A a the 

370 ESSAY -IV. [CHAP. 4. 

the effect is not produced, the tool mull be unfit 
or wrong applied. 

Upon the fuppofition of liberty, rewards and 
pu rudiments will have a proper effect upon the 
wife and the good ; but not fo upon the foolifh 
and the vicious, when oppofed by their animal 
pamons or bad habits ; and this is juft what we 
fee to be the fact. Upon this fuppofition, the 
tranfgreffion of the law implies no defect in the 
law, no fault in the lawgiver ; the fault is folely 
in the tranfgreffor. And it is upon this fuppo- 
fition only, that there can be either reward or 
puni foment, in the proper fenfe of the words, 
becaufe it is only on this fuppofition that there 
can be good or ill defert. 

Liberty conjifient with Government. 

WHEN it is faid that liberty would make 
us abfolutely ungovernable by God or 
man -, to underftand the ftrength of this conclu- 
fion, it is neceifary to know diftinctly what is 
meant by government. There are two kinds of 
government, very different in their nature. The 
one we may, for diftindtion's fake, call mechani- 
cal government, the other moral. The firft is 
the government of beings which have no active 
power, but are merely paflive and acted upon ; 
the fecond, of intelligent and active beings. 



An inftance of mechanical government may 
be, That of a mafter or commander of a (hip at 
fea. Suppoiing her fkilfully built, and furnifh- 
ed with every thing proper for the deilined 
voyage, to govern her properly for this purpofe 
requires much art and attention : And, as every 
art has its rules, or laws, fo has this. But by 
whom are thofe laws to be obeyed, or thofe rules 
obferved ? not by the (hip, furely, for fhe is an 
inactive being, but by the governor. A failor 
may fay that fhe does not obey the rudder ; and 
he has'a diftinct meaning when he fays fo, and 
is perfectly underftood. But he means not obe- 
dience in the proper, but in a metaphorical 
fenfe : For, in the proper fenfe, the fhip can no 
more obey the rudder, than me can give a com- 
mand. Every motion, both of the fhip and rud- 
der, is exactly proportioned to the force impref- 
fed, and in the direction of that force. The 
fhip never difobeys the laws of motion, even in 
the metaphorical fenfe ; and they are the only 
laws fhe can be fubject to. 

The failor, perhaps, curfes her for not obey- 
ing the rudder ; but this is not the voice of rea- 
fon, but of paffion, like that of the loiing game- 
fter, when he curfes the dice. The fhip is as 
innocent as the dice. 

Whatever may happen during the voyage, 

whatever may be its ifTue, the fhip, in the eye 

of realon, is neither an objecf of approbation 

nor of blame ; becaufe (lie does not act, but is 

A a 2 acted 

37 2 essay iv. [chap. 5. 

acted upon. If the material, in any part, be 
faulty ; Who put it to that ufe ? If the form ; 
Who made it ? If the rules of navigation were 
not obferved ; Who tranfgreffed them ? If a 
itorm occafioned any difafter, it was no more 
in the power of the fhip than of the mailer. 

, Another inilance to illuftrate the nature of 
mechanical government may be, That of the 
man who makes and exhibits a puppet-fhow» 
The puppets, in all their diverting gesticulations, 
do not move, but are moved by an impulfe fe- 
cretly conveyed, which they cannot refill. If 
they do not play their parts properly, the fault 
is only in the maker or manager of the ma- 
chinery. Too much or too little force was ap- 
plied, or it was wrong directed. No reafonable 
man imputes either praife or blame to the pup- 
pets, but foleiy to their maker or their gover- 

If we fuppofe for a moment, the puppets to 
be endowed with underftanding and will, but 
without any degree of active power, this will 
make no change In the nature of their govern- 
ment : For understanding and will, without 
fome degree of active power, can produce no 
effect. They might, upon this fuppofition, be 
called intelligent machines ; but they would be 
machines ftill, as much fubject to the laws of 
motion as inanimate matter, and therefore inca- 
pable of any other than mechanical govern- 



Let us next confider the nature of moral go- 
vernment. Tliis is the government of perfons 
who have reafon and active power, and have 
laws prefcribed to them for their conduct., by a 
legiflator. Their obedience is obedience in the 
proper fenfe ; it mult therefore be their own act 
and deed, and confequently they muit have 
power to obey or to difobey, To prefcribe laws 
to them which they have not power to obey, or 
to require a fervice beyond their power, would 
be tyranny and injuiiice in the higher! degree. 

When the laws are equitable, and prefcribed 
by juft authority, they produce moral obligation 
in thofe that are fubjecr, to them, and difobe- 
dience is a crime defending punilliment. But if 
the obedience be impoffible ; if the tranfgref- 
lion be neceffary ; it is felf-evident, that there 
can be no moral obligation to what is impoffible, 
that there can be no crime in yielding to necef- 
flty, and that there can be no juftice in puniili- 
ing a perfon for what it was not in his power to 
avoid. Thefe are firft principles in morals, and, 
to every unprejudiced mind, as felf-evident as 
the axioms of mathematics. The whole fcience 
of morals mure Hand or fall with them. 

Having thus explained the nature both of 
mechanical and of moral government, the only 
kinds of government I am able to conceive, it is 
eafy to fee how far liberty or neceffity agrees 
with either. 

A a 3 On 

374 essay iv. [chap. 5. 

On the one hand, I acknowledge that neceffi- 
ty agrees perfectly with mechanical government. 
This kind of government isjmoft perfect when 
the governor is the fole agent ; every thing done 
is the doing of the governor only. The praife 
of every thing well done is his folely ; and his 
is the blame if rhere be any thing ill done, be- 
caufe he is the fole agent. 

It is true that, in common language, praife or 
difpraile is often metaphorically given to the 
work ; but, in propriety, it belongs folely to the 
author. Every workman underftands this per- 
fectly, and takes to himfelf very juftly the praife 
or difpraife of his own work. 

On the other hand, it is no lefs evident, that, 
on the fuppofition of neceflity in the governed, 
there can be no moral government. There can 
be neither wifdom nor equity in preforming 
laws that cannot be obeyed. There can be no 
moral obligation upon beings that have no ac- 
tive power. There can be no crime in not do- 
ing what it w r as impoffible to do ; nor can there 
be juftice in punifhing fuch omiffion. 

If we apply thefe theoretical principles to the 
kinds of government which do actually exift, 
whether human or divine, we in all find that, 
among men, even mechanical government is im- 

Men do not make the matter they work upon. 
Jts various kinds, and the qualities belonging to 
each kind, are the work of God. The laws of 



nature, to which it is fubject, are the work of 
God. The motions of the atmofphere and of 
the fea, the heat and cold of the air, the rain 
and wind, which are ufeful inflruments in moft 
human ''operations, are not in our power. So 
that, in all the mechanical productions of men, 
the work is more to be afcribed to God than to 

Civil government among men is a fpecies of 
moral government, but imperfecl, as its law- 
givers and its judges are. Human laws may be 
unwife or unjuft ; human judges may be partial 
or unfkilful. But in all equitable civil govern- 
ments, the maxims of moral government above 
mentioned, are acknowledged as rules which 
ought never to be violated. Indeed, the rules 
of juftice are lb evident to all men, that the 
moft tyrannical governments profefs to be guid- 
ed by them, and endeavour to palliate what is 
contrary to them by the plea of neCeffity. 

That a man cannot be under an obligation to 
what is impofiible ; that he cannot be criminal 
in yielding to neceflity, nor juftly puniflied for 
what he could not avoid, are maxims admitted, 
in all criminal courts, as fundamental rules of 

In oppofition to this, it has been faid by fome 
of the moft able defenders of neceflity, That 
human laws require no more to conftitute a 
crime, but that it be voluntary ; whence it is 
inferred, that the criminality confifts in the de- 
A a 4 termination 

37 6 essay iv. [chap. 5, 

termination of the will, whether that determi- 
nation be free or necerTary. This, I think in- 
deed, is the only poffible plea by which crimi- 
nality can be made conliftent with neceflity ; 
and therefore it deferves to be confidered. 

I acknowledge that a crime muft be volunta- 
ry ; for, if it be not voluntary, it is no deed of 
the man, nor can be juftly imputed to him ; but 
it is no lefs necefiary that the criminal have mo- 
ral liberty. In men that are adult, and of a 
found mind, this liberty is prefumed. But in 
every cafe where it cannot be prefumed, no cri- 
minality is imputed, even to voluntary a&ions. 

Phis is evident from the following inftances : 
Fir/1, The" actions of brutes appear to be volun- 
tary ; yet they are never conceived to be crimi- 
nal, though they may be noxious. Secondly, 
Children in nonage acl: voluntarily, but they 
are not chargeable with crimes. Thirdly, Mad- 
men have both underltanding and will, but they 
have not moral liberty, and therefore are not 
chargeable with crimes. Fourthly, Even in men 
that are adult, and of a found mind, a motive 
that is thought irrefiitible by any ordinary de- 
gree of felf- command, fuch as the rack, or the 
dread of prefent death, either exculpates, or ve- 
ry much alleviates a voluntary action, which, in 
other circumftances, would be highly criminal ; 
whence it is evident, that if the motive were ab- 
solutely irrefiftible, the exculpation would be 
complete, So far is it from being true in itf'lf, 



or agreeable to the common fenfe of mankind, 
that the criminality of an action depends folely 
upon its being voluntary. 

The government of brutes, fo far as they are 
fubject to man, is a fpecies of mechanical go- 
vernment, or fomething very like to it, and has 
no refemblance to moral government. As in- 
animate matter is governed by our knowledge 
of the qualities which God hath given to the 
various productions of nature, and our know- 
ledge of the laws of nature which he hath efta- 
bliftied ; fo brute-animals are governed by our 
knowledge of the natural inftincts, appetites, af- 
fections and paffions, which God hath given 
them. By a fkilful application of thefe fprings 
of their actions, they may be trained to many 
habits ufeful to man. After all, we find that, 
from caufes unknown to us, not only fome fpe- 
cies, but fome individuals of the fame fpecies, 
are more tractable than others. 

Children under age are governed much in the 
fame way as the molt fagacious brutes. The 
opening of their intellectual and moral powers, 
which may be much aided by proper inftruc^ 
tion and example, is that which makes them, by 
degrees, capable of moral government. 

Reafon teaches us to afcribe to the Supreme 
Being a government of the inanimate and inac- 
tive part of his creation, analogous to that me- 
chanical government which men exercife, but 
infinitely more perfecl. This, I think, is what 


378 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 5. 

we call God's natural government of the uni- 
verfe. In this part of the divine government, 
whatever is done is God's doing. He is the 
fole caufe, and the fole agent, whether he act 
immediately, or by inftruments fubordinate to 
him ; and his will is always done : For inftru- 
ments are not caufes, they are not agents, though 
we fometimes improperly call them fo. 

It is therefore no lefs agreeable to reafon, than 
to the language of holy writ, to impute to the 
Deity whatever is done in the natural world. 
When we fay of any thing, that it is the work 
of Nature, this is faying that it is the work of 
God, and can have no other meaning. 

The natural world is a grand machine, con- 
trived, made, and governed by the wifdom and 
power of the Almighty : And if there be in 
this natural world, beings that have life, intel- 
ligence, and will, without any degree of active 
power, they can only be fubject to the fame kind 
of mechanical government. Their determina- 
tions, whether we call them good or ill, mult be 
the actions of the Supreme Being, as much as 
the productions of the earth : For, life, intelli- 
gence, and will, without active power, can do 
nothing, and therefore nothing can juftly be im- 
puted to it. 

This grand machine of the natural world, dif- 
plays the power and wifdom of the artificer. 
But in it, there can be no difplay of moral attri- 
butes, which have a relation to moral conduct 



in his creatures, fuch as juftice and equity in re- 
warding or punifhing, the love of virtue and ab- 
horrence of wickednefs : For, as every thing in 
it is God's doing, there can be no vice to be pu- 
nifhed or abhorred, no virtue in his creatures to 
be rewarded. 

According to the fyftem of necefiity, the whole 
univerfe of creatures is this natural world ; and 
of every thing done in it, God is the fole agent. 
There can be no moral government, nor moral 
obligation. Laws, rewards, and punifhments, 
are only mechanical engines, and the will of the 
lawgiver is obeyed as much when his laws are 
tranlgreffed, as when they are obferved. Such 
mult be our notions of the government of the 
world, upon the fuppoiition of necefiity. It 
muft be purely mechanical, and there can be no 
moral government upon that hypothecs. 

Let us confider, on the other hand, what no- 
tion of the divine government we are naturally 
led into by the fuppoiition of liberty. 

They who adopt this fyftem conceive, that in 
that fmall portion of the univerfe which fails un- 
der our view, as a great part has no active power, 
but moves, as it is moved, by necefiity, and 
therefore muft be fubjec~t to a mechanical go- 
vernment, fo it has pleafed the Almighty to be- 
ftow upon fome of his creatures, particularly up- 
on man, fome degree of active power, and of 
reafon, to direct him to the right ufe of his 


380 IS SAY IV. [CRAP. 5. 

• -What connection there may be, in the nature 
of things, between reafon and adtive power, we 
know not. But we fee evidently that, as reafon 
without active power can do nothing, fo active 
power without reafon has no guide to direct it 
to any end. 

. Thefe two conjoined make moral liberty, 
which, in how fmall a degree foever it is pofTef- 
fed, raifes man to a fuperior rank in the crea- 
tion of God. He is not merely a tool in the 
hand of the mafter, but a fervant, in the proper 
fenfe, who has a certain truft, and is accountable 
for the difcharge of it. Within the fphere of his 
power, he has a fubordinate dominion or govern- 
ment, and therefore may be faid to be made af- 
ter the image of God, the Supreme Governor. 
But as his dominion is fubordinate, he is under 
a moral obligation to make a rjght ufe of it, as 
far as the reafon which God hath given him can 
direct him. When he does fo, he is a juft ob- 
ject of moral approbation ; and no lefs an object 
of difapprobation and juft punifhment when he 
abufes the power with which he is intrufted. 
And he muit finally render an account of the 
talent committed to him, to the Supreme Gover- 
nor and righteous Judge. 

This is the moral government of God, which, 
far from being inconfiftent with liberty, fuppofes 
liberty in thofe that are fubject to it, and can 
extend no farther than that liberty extends ; for 



accountablenefs can no more agree with neceffi- 
ty than light with darknefs. 

It ought likewife to be obferved, that as ac- 
tive power in man, and in every created being, 
is the gift of God, it depends entirely on his 
pleafure for its exiftence, its degree and its con- 
tinuance, and therefore can do nothing which 
he does not fee fit to permit. 

Our power to act does not exempt us from be- 
ing acted upon, and restrained or compelled by 
a fuperior power ; and the power of God is al- 
ways fuperior to that of man. 

It would be great folly and prelum ption in us 
to pretend to know all the ways in which the 
government of the Supreme Being is carried on, 
and his purpofes accomplifhed by men, ading 
freely, and having different or oppofite purpofes 
in r their view. For, as the heavens are high 
above the earth, fo are his thoughts above our 
thoughts, and his ways above our ways. 

That a man may have great influence upon 
the voluntary determinations of other men, by 
means of education, example and perfuafion, is 
a fact which mull be granted, whether we adopt 
the fyftem of liberty or neceility. How far fuch 
determinations ought to be imputed to the per- 
fon who applied thofe means, how far to the per- 
fon influenced by them, we know not. but God 
knows, and will judge righteoufly. 

But what I would here obferve is, That if a 
man of fuperior talents may have fo great in- 


382 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 5. 

fluence over the actions of his fellow-creatures,, 
without taking away their liberty, it is furely 
reafonable to allow a much greater influence of 
the fame kind to him who made man. Nor can 
it ever be proved, that the wifdom and power of 
the Almighty are infufficient for governing free 
agents, fo as to anfwer his purpofes. 

He who made man may have ways of govern- 
ing his determinations, confiftent with moral li- 
berty, of which we have no conception. And 
he who gave this liberty freely, may lay any re- 
ftraint upon it that is neceffary for anfwering his 
wife and benevolent purpofes. The juftice of 
his government requires, that his creatures fhould 
be accountable only for what they have received, 
and not for what was never intrufted to them. 
And we are fure that the Judge of all the earth 
will do what is right. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that, upon the fup- 
polition of neceffity, there can be no moral go- 
vernment of the univerfe. Its government mull 
be perfectly mechanical, and every thing done 
in it, whether good or ill, muft be God's doing ; 
and that, upon the fuppofition of liberty, there 
may be, a perfect moral government of the uni- 
verfe, confiftent with his accompliihing all his 
purpofes, in its creation and government. 

The arguments to prove that man is endowed 
with moral liberty, which have the greater) 
weight with me, are three : Firft, Becaufe he 
has a natural conviction or belief, that, in many 


cafes, he acts freely ; fecondly, Becaufe he is ac- 
countable ; and, thirdly, Becaufe he is ahje to 
profecute an end by a long feries of means a- 
dapted to it. 


Firjl Argument. 

E have, by our constitution, a natural 
conviction or belief that we act freely : 
A conviction fo early, fo univerfal and fo necef-- 
fary in molt of our rational operations, that it 
muft be the refult of our conftitution, and the 
work of him that made us. 

Some of the molt ftrenuous advocates for the 
doctrine of neceffity acknowledge, that it is im- 
poutble to act upon it. They fay that we have 
a natural fenfe or conviction that we act freely, 
but that this is a fallacious fenfe. 

This doctrine is difhonourable to our Maker, 
and lays a foundation for univerfal icepticifm. 
It fuppofes the Author of our being to have 
given us one faculty on purpofe to deceive us, 
and another by which we may detect the falla- 
cy, and find that he impofed upon us. 

If any one of our natural faculties be falla- 
cious, there can be no reafon to trull to any of 
them ; for he that made one made all. 

The genuine dictate of our natural faculties 
is the voice of God, no lefs than what he reveals 


384 ESSAY IV. [chap. 6. 

from heaven ; and to fay that it is fallacious is 
to impute a lie to the God of truth. 

I§ candour and veracity be not an eflential 
part of moral excellence, there is no fuch thing 
as moral excellence, nor any reafon to rely on ■ 
the declarations and promifes of the Almighty. 
A man may be tempted to lie, but not without 
being confcious of guilt and of meannefs. Shall 
we impute to the Almighty what we cannot im- 
pute to a man without a heinous affront ? 

Paffing this opinion, therefore, as mocking to 
an ingenuous mind, and, in its confequences, 
fubverfive of all religion, all morals and all 
knowledge, let us proceed to confider the evi- 
dence of our having a natural conviction that 
we have fome degree of active power. 

The very conception or idea of active power 
muft be derived from fomething in our own 
conftitution. It is impofiible to account for it 
otherwife. We fee events, but we fee not the 
power that produces them. We perceive one 
event to follow another, but we perceive not the 
chain that binds them together. The notion of 
power and caufation, therefore, cannot be got 
from external objects. 

Yet the notion of caufes, and the belief that 
every event muft have a caufe which had power 
to produce it, is found in every human mind fo 
firmly eftablifhed, that it cannot be rooted out. 

This notion and this belief muft have its ori- 
gin from fomething in our conftitution ; and 



that it is natural to man, appears from the fol- 
lowing obfervations. 

1. We are confcious of many voluntary exer- 
tions, fome eafy, others more difficult, fome re- 
quiring a great effort. Thefe are exertions of 
power. And though a man may be unconfcious 
of his power when he does not exert it, he mult 
have both the conception and the belief of it, 
when he knowingly and willingly exerts it, with 
intention to produce fome effect. 

2. Deliberation about an action of moment, 
whether we fhall do it or not, implies a convic- 
tion that it is in our power. To deliberate 
about an end, we muft be convinced that the 
means are in our power ; and to deliberate about 
the means, we mult be convinced that we have 
power to choofe the molt proper. 

3. Suppofe our deliberation brought to an 
ifTue, and that we refolve to do what appeared 
proper, Can we form fuch a refolution or pur- 
pofe, without ^any conviction of power to exe- 
cute it ? No ; it is impoffible. A man cannot 
refolve to lay out a fum of money, which he 
neither has, nor hopes ever to have. 

4. Again, when I plight my faith in any pro- 
mi fe or contract, I muft believe that I fhall have 
power to perform what I promife. Without 
this perfuafionj a promife would be downright 

There is a condition implied in every promife, 

if we live, and if God continue with us the power 

Vol. III. . B b which 

386 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 6. 

'which he hath given us. Our conviction, there- 
fore, of this power derogates not in the leaft 
from our dependence upon God. The rudeft 
favage is taught by nature to admit this condi- 
tion in ail promifes, whether it be expreiTed or 
noc. For it is a dictate of common ienfe, that 
we can be under no obligation to do what it is 
impofliblc for us to do. 

If we act upon the fyftem of neceffity, there 
mull be another condition implied in all delibe- 
ration, in every refolution, and in every pro- 
mife , and that is, if wejball he willing. But 
the will not being in our power, we cannot en- 
gage for it. 

If this condition be understood, as it muft be 
understood if we act upon the fyitem of neceffi- 
ty, there can be no deliberation or refolution, 
nor any obligation in a promile. A man might 
as well deliberate, refolve and promife, upon the 
actions of other men as upon his own. 

It is no lefs evident, that we have a convic- 
tion of power in other men, when we advife, or 
perfuade, or command, or conceive them to be 
under obligation by their promifes. 

5. Is it poflible for any man to blame himfelf 
for yielding; to neceffitv ? Then he mav blame 
himfelf for dying, or for being a man. Blame 
fuppofes a wrong ufe of power ; and when a man 
does as well as it was pollible for him to do, 
wherein is he to be blamed ? Therefore all con- 
viction of wrong conduct, all remorfe and felf- 



condemnation, imply a conviction of our power 
to have done better. Take away this conviction, 
and there may be a fenfe of mifery, or a dread 
of evil to come, but there can be no fenfe of 
guilt, or refolution to do better. 

Many who hold the doctrine of neceffity, dif- 
own thefe confequences of it, and think to evade 
them. To fuch they ought not to be imputed ; but 
their infeparable connection with that doctrine 
appears felf-evident : And therefore fome late 
patrons of it have had the boldnefs to avow 
them. " They cannot accufe themfelves of ha- 
" ving done any thing wrong in the ultimate 
" fenfe of the words. In a ftrict fenfe, they have 
" nothing to do with repentance, confeffion and 
" pardon, thefe being adapted to a fallacious 
" view of things." 

Thofe who can adopt thefe fentiments, may 
indeed celebrate, with high encomiums, the 
great and glorious doctrine ofnece.Jjity. It reftores 
them, in their own conceit, to the fiate of inno- 
cence. It delivers them from all the pangs of 
guilt and remorfe, and from all fear about their 
future conduct, though not about their fate. 
They may be as fecure that they mail do no- 
thing wrong, as thofe who have finifhed their 
courfe. A doctrine fo flattering to the mind of 
a finner, is very apt to give ftrength to weak ar- 

After all, it is acknowledged by thofe who 

boaft of this glorious doctrine, " That every 

B b 2 " man. 

388 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 6. 

" man, let him ufe what efforts he can, will ne- 
" ceffarily feel the fentiments of fhame, remorfe, 
" and repentance, and, oppreffed with a fenfe of 
" guilt, will have recourfe to that mercy of 
(i which he flands in need." 

The meaning of this feems to me to be, That 
although the doctrine of neceffity be fupported 
by invincible arguments, and though it be the 
moft confolatory doctrine in the world ; yet no 
man, in his moft ferious moments, when he fills 
himfelf before the throne of his Maker, can pof- 
fibly believe it, but mufl then neceffarily lay 
afide this glorious doctrine, and all its flattering 
confequences, and return to the humiliating con- 
viction of his having made a bad ufe of the power 
which God had given him. 

If the belief of our having active power be ne- 
ceffarily implied in thofe rational operations we 
have mentioned, it mufl be coeval with our rea- 
fon ; it mud be as univerfal among men, and as 
neceffary in the conduct of life, as thofe opera- 
tions are. 

We cannot recollect by memory when it be- 
gan. It cannot be a prejudice of education, or 
of falfe philofophy. It mufl be a part of our 
conflitution, or the neceffary refult of our con- 
ftitution, and therefore the work of God. 

It refembles, in this refpect, our belief of the 
existence of a material world; our belief that 
thofe we convene with are living and intelligent 
beings ; our belief that thofe things did really 



happen which we diftinctly remember, and our 
belief that we continue the fame identical per- 

We find difficulty in accounting for our belief 
of thefe things ; and fome Philofophers think, 
that they have difcovered good reafons for 
throwing it off. But it flicks fait, and the great- 
eft fceptic finds, that he muft yield to it in his 
practice, while he wages war with it in fpecu- 

If it be objected to this argument, That the 
belief of our acling freely cannot be implied in 
the operations we have mentioned, becaufe thofe 
operations are performed by them who believe 
that we are, in all our actions, governed by ne- 
ceftity. The anfwer to this objection is, That 
men in their practice may be governed by a be- 
lief which in fpeculation they reject. 

However flrange and unaccountable this may 
appear, there are many well known inftances of 

I knew a man who was as much convinced as 
any man of the folly of the popular belief of ap- 
paritions in the dark, yet he could not ileep in a 
room alone, nor go alone into a room in the 
dark. Can it be faid, that his fear did not. im- 
ply a belief of danger ? This is impoffible. Yet 
his philofophy convinced him, that he was in no 
more danger in the dark when alone, than with 

B b 3 Here 

39° £ S S A Y IV. [chap. 6. 

Here an unreafonable belief, which was mere- 
ly a prejudice of the nurfery, ftuck fo fail as to 
govern his conduct, in oppofition to his fpecula- 
tive belief as a Philofpher and a man of fenfe. 

There are few perions who can look down 
from the battlement of a very high tower with- 
out fear, while their reafon convinces them that 
they are in no more danger than when ftanding 
upon the ground. 

There have been perfons who profeffed to be- 
lieve that there is no diftinction between virtue 
and vice, yet in their practice they refented in- 
juries, and efleemed noble and virtuous actions. 

There have been fceptics who profeffed to dif- 
believe their fenfes, and every human faculty ; 
but no fceptic was ever known, who did not, in 
practice, pay a regard to his fenfes and to his 
other faculties. 

There are fome points of belief fo neceffary, 
that, without them, a man would not be the be- 
ing which God made him. Thefe may be op- 
pofed. in fpeculation, but it is impoffible to root 
them out. In a fpeculative hour they feem to 
vanifh, but in practice they refume. their autho- 
rity. This feems to be the cafe of thofe who 
hold the doctrine of necemty, and yet act as if 
they were free. 

This natural conviction of fome degree of 
power in ourfelves and in other men, refpects 
voluntary actions only. For as all our power is 
directed by our will, we can form no conception 



of power, properly fo called, that is not under 
the direction of will. And therefore our exer- 
tions, our deliberations, our purpofes, our pro- 
mifes, are only in things that depend upon our 
will. Our advices, exhortations, and commands, 
are only in things that depend upon the will 
of thofe to whom they are addreffed. We im- 
pute no guilt to ourfelves, nor to others, in things 
where the will is not concerned. 

But it deferves our notice, that we do not con- 
ceive every thing, without exception, to be in a 
man's power which depends upon his will. 
There are many exceptions to this general rule. 
The molt obvious of thefe I fhall mention, be- 
caufe they both ferve to illuftrate the rule, and 
are of importance in the queftion concerning the 
liberty of man. 

In the rage of madnefs, men are abfolutely 
deprived of the power of felf-government. They 
act. voluntarily, but their will is driven as by a 
tempeft, which, in lucid intervals, they refolve 
to oppofe with all their might, but are overcome 
when the fit of madnefs returns. 

Idiots are like men walking in the dark, who 
cannot be faid to have the power of choofing 
their way, becaufe they cannot diftinguifh'the 
good road from the bad. Having no light in 
their understanding, they mult either lit ft ill, or 
be carried on by fome blind impulfe. 

Between the darknefs of infancy, which is 

equal to that "of idiots, and the maturity of rea- 

B b 4 fon, 

39 2 ess Ay iv. [chap. 6. 

ion, there is a long twilight, which, by infen- 
iible degrees, advances to the perfect day. 

In this period of life, man has but little of the 
power of 1 elf- government. His actions, by na- 
ture, as well as by the laws of fociety, are in the 
power of others more than in his own. His fol- 
ly and indifcretion, his levity and inconflancy, 
are confidered as the fault of youth, rather than 
of the man. We confider him as half a man and 
half a child, and expect: that each by turns 
fhould play its part. He would be thought a 
fevere and unequitable cenfor of manners, who 
required the fame cool deliberation, the fame 
fteady conduct, and the fame maftery over him- 
felf in a boy of thirteen, as in a man of thirty. 

It is an old adage, That violent anger is a 
Ihort fit of madnefs. If this be literally true in 
any cafe, a man, in fuch a fit of paffion, cannot 
be faid to have the command of himfelf. If real 
madnefs could be proved, it mult have the effect 
of madnefs while it lafts, whether it be for an 
hour or for life. But the -madnefs of arfhort fit 
of paffion, if it be really madnefs, is incapable 
of proof; and therefore is not admitted in hu- 
man tribunals as an exculpation. And, I be- 
lieve, there is no cafe where a man can fatisfy 
his own mind that his paffion, both in its begin- 
ning and in its progrefs, was irrefiftible. The 
Searcher of hearts alone knows infallibly what 
allowance is due in cafes of this kind. 



But a violent paffion, though it may not be irre- 
iiftible, is difficult tobe refilled: And a man,fure- 
ly, has not the fame power over himfelf in paf- 
fion, as when he is cool. On this account it is 
allowed by all men to alleviate, when it cannot 
exculpate ; and has its weight in criminal courts, 
as well as in private judgment. 

It ought likewife to be obferved, That he who 
has accuftomed himfelf to reilrain his paffions, 
enlarges by habit his power over them, and con- 
fequently over himfelf. When we confider that 
a Canadian favage can acquire the power of de- 
fying death, in its rnoft dreadful forms, and of 
braving the moil exquifite torment for many 
long hours, without loiing the command of him- 
felf; we may learn from this, that, in the con- 
stitution of human nature, there is ample fcope 
for the enlargement of that power of felf-com- 
mand, without which there can be no virtue nor 

There are cafes, however, in which a man's 
voluntary aclions are thought to be very little,, 
if at all, in his power, on account of the vio- 
lence of the motive that impels him. The mag- 
nanimity of a hero, or of a martyr, is not ex- 
peeled in every man, and on all occafions. 

If a man truited by the government with a fe- 
cret, which it is high treafon to difclofe, be pre- 
vailed upon by a bribe, we have no me r cy for 
him, and hardly allow the greatcft bribe to be 
any alleviation of his crime. 


3<)4 ESSAY IV. [chap. 6. 

But, on the other hand, if the fecret be ex- 
torted by the rack, or by the dread of prefent 
death, we pity him more than we blame him^ 
and would think it fevere and unequitable to 
condemn him as a traitor. 

What is the reafon that all men agree in con- 
demning this man as a traitor in the firft cafe, 
and in the laft, either exculpate him, or think 
fcis fault greatly alleviated ? If he acted necef- 
farily in both cafes, compelled by an irrefiftible 
motive, I can fee no reafon why we mould not 
pafs the fame judgment on both. 

But the reafon of thefe different judgments is 
evidently this, That the love of money, and of 
what is called a man's intereft, is a cool motive, 
which leaves to a man the entire power over 
himfelf: But the torment of the rack, or the 
dread of prefent death, are fo violent motives, 
that men, who have not uncommon ftrength of 
mind, are not mafters of themfelves in fuch a 
iituation, and therefore what they do is not im- 
puted, or is thought lefs criminal. 

If a man retift fuch motives, we admire his 
fortitude, and think his conduct heroical rather 
than human. If he yields, we impute it to hu- 
man frailty, and think him rather to be pitied 
than feverely cenfured. 

Inveterate habits are acknowledged to dimi- 
nilli very cdniiderably the power a man has over 
himfelf. Although we may think him highly 
blameable in acquiring them, yet, when they 



are confirmed to a certain degree, we confider 
him as no longer m after of himfelf, and hardly 
reclaimable without a miracle. 

Thus we fee, that the power which we are 
led, by common fenfe, to afcribe to man, refpects 
his voluntary actions only, and that it has vari- 
ous limitations even with regard to them. Some 
actions that depend upon our will are eafy, 
others very difficult, and fome, perhaps, beyond 
our power. In different men, the power of felf- 
government is different, and in the fame man at 
different times. It may be diminished, or per- 
haps loft, by bad habits \ it may be greatly in- 
creafed by good habits. 

Thefe are facts attefted by experience, and 
fupported by the common judgment of man- 
kind. Upon the fyftem of liberty, they are per- 
fectly intelligible ; but, I think, irreconcileable 
to that of ncceffity j for, How can there be an 
eafy and a difficult in actions equally fubject to 
neceffity ? or, How can power be greater or lefs, 
increafed or diminifhed, in thofe who have no 
power ? 

This natural conviction of our acting freely, 
which is acknowledged by many who hold the 
doctrine of neceffity, ought to throw the whole 
burden of proof upon that fide : For, by this, 
the fide of liberty has what lawyers call a jus 
quajitum, or a right of ancient poiTeffion, which 
ought to ftand good till it be overturned. If it 
cannot be proved that we always act from ne- 

396 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 7. 

ceiiity, there is no need of arguments on the 
other fide, to convince us that we are free 

To illuflrate this by a fimilar cafe : If a Phi- 
lofopher would perfuade me, that my fellow- 
men with whom I converfe, are not thinking in- 
telligent beings, but mere machines, though I 
might be at a lofs to find arguments againft this 
ftrange opinion, I fhould think it reafonable to 
hold the belief which nature gave me before I 
w 7 as capable of weighing evidence, until convin- 
cing proof is brought againft it. 


Second Argument. 

THAT there is a real and effential dittmction 
between right and wrong conduct, between 
juft and unjuft ; that the molt perfect moral rec- 
titude is to be afcribed to the Deity ; that man 
is a moral and accountable being, capable of ac- 
ting right and wrong, and anfwerable for his 
conduct to him who made him, and affigned 
him a part to act upon the ftage of life ; are 
principles proclaimed by every man's ccnfci- 
ence ; principles upon which the fyftems of mo- 
rality and natural religion, as well as the fyftem 
of revelation, are grounded, and which have 
been generally acknowledged by thofe who hold 
contrary opinions on the fubject of human liber- 


ty. I fhall therefore here take them for grant- 

Thefe principles afford an obvious, and, I 
think, an invincible argument, that man is en- 
dowed with moral liberty. 

Two things are implied in the notion of a 
moral and accountable being ; underftanding and 
active power. 

Firji, He mull underftand the law to which 
he is bound, and his obligation to obey it. Mo- 
ral obedience muft be voluntary, and muft re- 
gard the authority of the law. I may command 
my horfe to eat when he hungers, and drink 
when he thirfts. He does fo ; but his doing it 
is no moral obedience. He does not underftand 
my command, and therefore can have no will to 
obey it. He has not the conception of moral 
obligation, and therefore cannot act from the 
conviction of it. In eating and drinking, he is 
moved by his own appetite only, and not by my 

Brute-animals are incapable of moral obliga- 
tion, becaufe they have not that degree of un- 
derftanding which it implies. They have not 
the conception of a rule of conduct, and of obli- 
gation to obey it, and therefore, though they 
may be noxious, they cannot be criminal. 

Man, by his rational nature, is capable both 
of underftanding the law that is prefcribed to 
him, and of perceiving its obligation. He knows 
what it is to be juft and honeft, to injure no 


398 ESSAY IV. [CHAP 7. 

man, and to obey his Maker. From his confti- 
ttition, he has an immediate conviction of his 
obligation to thefe things. Ke has the approba- 
tion of his confcience when he acts by thefe 
rules ; and he is confcious of guilt and demerit 
when he tranfgrefTes them. And, without this 
knowledge of his duty and his obligation, he 
would not be a moral and accountable being. 

Secondly, Another thing implied in the notion 
cf a moral and accountable being, is power to 
do what he is accountable for. 

That no man can be under a moral obligation 
to do what it is impofiible for him to do, or to 
forbear what it is impoffible for him to forbear, 
is an axiom as felf-evident as any in mathema- 
tics. It cannot be contradicted, without over- 
turning all notion of moral obligation ; nor can 
there be any exception to it, when it is rightly 

Some moralifts have mentioned what they 
conceive to be an exception to this maxim. The 
exception is this. When a man, by his own fault, 
has difabled himfelf from doing his duty, his 
obligation, they fay, remains, though he is now 
unable to difcharge it. Thus, if a man by fump- 
tuous living has become bankrupt, his inability 
to pay his debt does not take away his obliga- 
tion. ' . 

To judge whether, in this and fimilar cafes, 
there be any exception to the axiom above men- 
' tioned, they mull be Hated accurately. 



No doubt a man is highly criminal in living 
above his fortune, and his crime is greatly ag- 
gravated by the circumftance of his being there- 
'by unable to pay his juft debt. Let as fuppofe, 
therefore, that he is punimed for this crime as 
much as it deferves ; that his goods are fairly 
distributed among his creditors, and that one 
half remains unpaid : Let us fuppofe alfo, that 
he adds no new crime to what is paft, that he 
becomes a new man, and not only fupports him- 
felf byhoneft induftry, but does all in his power 
to pay what he {till owes. 

I would now afk, Is he further punifhable, 
and really guilty for not paying more than he 
is able ? Let every man confult his confcience, 
and fay whether he can blame this man for not 
doing more than he is able to do. His guilt be- 
fore liis bankruptcy is out of the queftion, as he 
has received the punilhment due for it. But 
that his fubfequent conduct is unblameable, eve- 
ry man mult allow ; and that, in his prefent 
Itate, he is accountable for no more than he is 
able to do. His obligation is not cancelled, it 
returns with his ability, and can go no farther. 

Suppofe a failor, employed in the navy of his 
country, and longing for the eafe of a public 
hofpital as an invalid, to cut off his fingers, fo as 
to difable him from doing the duty of a failor ; 
he is guilty of a great crime ; but, after he has 
been punifhed according to the demerit of his 
crime, will his captain infift that he fhall ftill do 


_|00 • ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 7. 

the duty of a failor ? Will he command him to 
go aloft when it is impoffible for him to do it, 
and punifh him as guilty of difobedience ? Sure- 
ly if there be any fuch thing as juftice and in? 
juftice, this would be unjuft and wanton cruelty. 

Suppofe a fervant, through negligence and in- 
attention, miftakes the orders given him by his 
mailer, and, from this miftake, does what he was 
ordered not to do. It is commonly faid that 
culpable ignorance does not excufe a fault : 
This decilion is inaccurate, becaufe it does not 
mew where the fault lies : The fault was folely 
in that inattention,' or negligence, which was 
the occafion of his miftake : There was no fub- 
fequent fault. 

This becomes evident, when we vary the cafe 
fo far as to fuppofe, that he was unavoidably led 
into the miftake without any fault on his ^>art. 
His miftake is now invincible, and, in the opi- 
nion of all moralifts, takes away all blame ; yet 
this new cafe fuppofes no change, but in the 
caufe of his miftake. His fubfequent con- 
duct was the fame in both cafes. The fault 
therefore lay folely in the negligence and inat- 
tention which was the caufe of his miftake. 

The axiom, That invincible ignorance takes 
away all blame, is only a particular cafe of the 
general axiom, That there can be no moral ob- 
ligation to what is impoffible; the former is 
grounded upon the latter, and can have no other 


I fhall put only one cafe more. Suppofe that 
a man, by excefs and intemperance, has entirely 
deltroyed his rational faculties, fo as to have be- 
come perfectly mad or idiotical ; fuppofe him 
forewarned of his danger, and that, though he 
forefaw that this rfiuft be the confequence, he 
went on Hill in his criminal indulgence. A 
greater crime can hardly be fcppofed, or more 
deferving of fevere punifhment ? Suppofe him 
pimifhed as he deferves ; will it be faid, that the 
duty of a man is incumbent upon him now, 
when he has not the faculties of a man, or that 
he incurs new guilt when he is not a moral 
agent ? Surely we may as well fuppofe a plant, 
or a clod of earth, to be a fubject of moral duty. 

The decifions I have given of thefe cafes, are 
grounded upon the fundamental principles of 
morals, the molt immediate dictates of con- 
fcience. If thefe principles are given up, all 
moral reafoning is at an end, and no diftinction 
is left between what is juft and what is unjuft. 
And it is evident, that none of thefe cafes fur- 
nifhes any exception to the axiom above men- 
tioned. No moral obligation can be confident 
with impoflibility in the performance. 

Active power, therefore, is neceffarily implied 
in the very notion of a moral accountable being. 
And if man be fuch a being, he mud have a 
degree of active power proportioned to the ac- 
count he is to make. He may have a model of 
perfection fet before him which he is unable to 

Vol. III. C c reach; 

402 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 7. 

reach ; but, if he does to the utmoft of his 
power, this is all he can be anfwerable for. To 
incur guilt, by not going beyond his power, is 

What was faid, in the firft argument, of the 
limitation of our power, adds much ftrength to 
the prefent argument. A man's power, it was 
obferved, extends only to his voluntary actions, 
and has many limitations, even with refpect to 

His accountablenefs has the fame extent and 
the fame limitations. 

In the rage of madnefs he has no power over 
himfelf, neither is he accountable, or capable of 
moral obligation. In ripe age man is account- 
able in a greater degree than in non-age, becaufe 
his power over himfelf is greater. Violent paf- 
iions, and violent motives alleviate what is done 
through their influence, in the fame proportion 
as they diminifh the power of reftftance. 

There is, therefore, a perfect correfpondence 
between power, on the one hand, and moral ob- 
ligation and accountablenefs, on the other. 
They not only correfpond in general, as they re- 
fpect voluntary actions only, but every limita- 
tion of the firft produces a correfponding limi- 
tation of the two lair. This, indeed, amounts, 
to nothing more than that maxim of common 
fenfe, confirmed by Divine authority, That to 
whom much is given, of him much will be re- 



The fum of this argument is, That a certain 
degree of active power is the talent which God 
hath given to every rational accountable creature, 
and of which he will require an account. If 
man had no power, he would have nothing to 
account for. All wife and all foolifh conduct, all 
virtue and vice, confift in the right life or in the 
abufe of that power which God hath given us. 
If man had no power, he could neither be wife 
nor foolifh, virtuous nor vicious. 

If we adopt the fyftem of neceffity, the terms 
moral obligation and accountablenefs, praife and 
blame, merit and demerit, jujlice and injujiice, re- 
"ward and punijhment, wifdom and folly, virtue 
and vice, ought to be difufed, or to have new 
meanings given to them when they are ufed in 
religion, in morals, or -in civil government ; for 
upon that fyftem, there can be no fuch things 
as they have been always u.fed to fignify. 


Third Argument. 

THAT man has power over his own aclions 
and volitions appears, becaufe he is ca- 
pable of carrying on, wifely and prudently, a 
fyftem of conduct., which he has before concei- 
ved in his mind, and refolved to profecute. 

I take it for granted, that, among the various 
characters of men, there have been fome, who, 

G c 2 after 

4©4 ESSAY IV. [chap. 8. 

after they came to years of underftanding, deli- 
berately laid down a plan of conduct, which 
they refolved to purfue through life ; and that 
of thefe, fome have iteadily purfued the end 
they had in view, by the proper means. 

It is of no confequence in this argument, whe- 
ther one has made the belt choice of his mair. 
end or not ; whether his end be riches, or power, 
or fame, or the approbation of his Maker. I fup- 
pofe only, that he has prudently and fteadily 
purfued it ; that, in a long courle of deliberate 
actions, he has taken the means that appeared 
moil conducive to his end, and avoided whatever- 
might profs it. 

That fuch conduct in a man demonstrates a 
certain degree of wifdom and underftanding, no 
man ever doubted ; and, I lay, it demonftrates, 
with equal force, a certain degree of power over 
his voluntary determinations. 

This will appear evident, if we confider, that. 
underftanding without power may project, but 
can execute nothing. A regular plan of conduct, 
as it cannot be contrived without underftanding, 
fo it cannot be carried into execution without 
power ; and, therefore, the execution, as an ef- 
fect, demonftrates, with equal force, both power 
and underftanding in the caufe. Every indica- 
tion of wifdom, taken from the effect, is equally 
an indication of power to execute what wif- 
dom planned. And, if we have any evidence, 
that the wifdom which formed the plan is in the 



Irian, we have the very fame evidence, that the 
power which executed it is in him alfo. 

In this argument, we reafon from the fame 
principles, as in demonftrating the being and 
perfections of the Firft Caufe of all things. 

The effects we obferve in the courfe of nature 
require a caufe. Effects wifely adapted to an 
end, require a wife caufe. Every indication of 
the wifdom of the Creator is equally an indica- 
tion of his power. His wifdom appears only in 
the works done by his power ; for wifdom with- 
out power may fpeculate, but it cannot act ; it 
may plan, but it cannot execute its plans. 

The fame reafbriiiig we apply to the works of 
men. In a (lately palaCe we fee the wifdom of 
the architect. His wifdom contrived it, and wif- 
dom could do no more. The execution requi- 
red, both a diftifict conception of the plan, and 
power to operate according to that plan. 

Let us apply thefe principles to the fuppofi- 
tion we have made, That a man, in a long courfe 
of conduct, has determined and acted prudently 
in the profecution of a certain end. If the man 
had both the wifdom to plan this co'nrfe of con- 
duct, and that power over his own actions that 
was necelfary to carry it into execution, he is a 
free agent, and tifed his liberty, in this inftance, 
with underftanding. 

But if all his particular determinations, which 

concurred in the execution of this plan, were 

prndu.ced 7 not by himfelf, but by feme caufe 

C c 3 acting 

406 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 8. 

acting neceffarily upon him, then there is no evi- 
dence left that 'he contrived this plan, or that he 
ever fpent a thought about it. 

The caufe that directed all thefe determina- 
tions fo wifely, whatever it was, mult be a wife 
and intelligent caufe ; it muft have underitood 
the plan, and have intended the execution of it. 

If it be faid, that all this courfe of determi- 
nations was produced by motives ; motives fure- 
ly have not underftanding to conceive a plan, 
and intend its execution. We mull therefore 
go back beyond motives to fome intelligent be- 
ing who had the power of arranging thole mo- 
tives, and applying them, in their proper order 
and feafon, fo as to bring about the end. 

This intelligent being muft have underftood 
the plan, and intended to execute it. If this be. 
fo, as the man had no hand in the execution, we 
have not any evidence left, that he had any hand 
in the contrivance, or even that he is a thinking 

If we can believe, that an exteniive feries of 
means ma)" confpire to promote an end without 
a caufe that intended the end, and had power to 
choofe and apply thofe means for the purpofe, 
we may as well believe, that this world was 
made by a fortuitous concourfe of atoms, with- 
out an intelligent and powerful caufe. 

If a lucky concourfe of motives could produce 
the conduct of an Alexander or a Julius &m- 
sar, no reafon can be given why a lucky con- 


courfe of atoms might not produce the planetary 

If, therefore, wife conduct in a man demon- 
ftrates that he has fome degree of wifdom, it 
demonflrates, with equal force and evidence, 
that he has fome degree of power over his own 

All the reafon we tan affign for believing that 
our fellow-men think and reafon, is grounded 
upon their actions and fpeechcs. If they are not 
the caui'e of thefe, there is no reafon left to con- 
clude that they think and reafon. 

Des Cartes thought that the human body is 
merely a mechanical engine, and that all its mo- 
tions and actions are produced by mechanifm. 
If fuch a machine could be made to fpeak and 
to act. rationally, we might indeed conclude with 
certainty, that the maker of it had both reafon 
and active power ; but if we once knew, that all 
the motions of the machine were purely mecha- 
nical, we mould have no reafon to conclude that 
the man had reafon or thought, 

The conclulion of this argument is, That, if 
the actions and fpeeches of other men give us 
fufficient evidence that they are reafonable be- 
ings, they give us the fame evidence, and the 
'fame degree of evidence, that they are free a- 

There is another conclufion that may be 
drawn "from this reafoning, which it is proper 
to mention. 

G c 4 Suppofe 

408 ESSAY IV, [chap. S» 

Suppofe a fatalift, rather than give up the 
fcheme of-necefiity, mould acknowledge that he 
has no evidence that there is thought and reafon 
in any of his fellow-men, and that they may be 
mechanical engines for all that he knows ; he 
will be forced to acknowledge, that there mud 
be active power, as well as underftanding, in the 
maker of thofe engines, and that the Firft Caufe 
is a free agent. We have the fame reafon to 
believe this, as to believe his exiftence and his 
wifdom. And, if the Deity -acts freely, every 
argument brought to prove that freedom of ac- 
tion is impoffible, muft fall to the ground. 

The Firft Caufe gives us evidence of his power 
by every effect that gives us evidence of his wif- 
dom. And, if he is pleafed to communicate to 
the work of his hands fome degree of his wif- 
dom, no reafon can be affigned why he may not 
communicate fome degree of his power, as the 
talent which wifdom is to employ. 

That the firft motion, or the firft effect, what- 
ever it be, cannot be produced necefTariiy, and, 
confequently, that the Firft Caufe muft be a free 
agent, has been demonftrated fo clearly and un- 
anfvverably by Dr Clarke, both in his Demon- 
itration of the Being and Attributes of God, 
and in the end of his Remarks on Collin's Phi- 
lofophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty, 
that I can add nothing to what he has faid ; nor 
have I found any objection made to his reaion- 
ing, by any of the defenders of neceifity. 




Of Arguments for Necejjity, 

SOME of the arguments that have been offer- 
ed for neceffity were already confidered in 
this Effay. 

It has been faid, That human liberty refpecls 
only the actions that are fubfequent to volition ; 
and that power over the determinations of the 
will is inconceivable, and involves a contradic- 
tion. This argument was confidered in the firft 

It has been faid, That liberty is inconiifient 
with the influence of motives, that it would 
make human actions capricious, and man ungo- 
vernable by God or man. Thefe arguments 
were confidered in the fourth and fifth chap- 

I am now to make fomc remarks upon other 
arguments that have been urged in this caufe. 
They may, I think, be reduced to three clafTes. 
They are intended to prove, either that liberty 
of determination is impoffible, or that it would 
be hurtful, or that, in fact, man has no fuch li- 

To prove that liberty of determination is im- 
poffible, it has been faid, That there mud be a 
fufficient reafon for every thing. For every ex- 
2 iftence, 

4io < ESSAY iv*. [chap. 9, 

iflence,for every event, for every truth, there mujl 
he a fufficient reafon. 

The famous German Philofopher Leibnitz 
boaited much of having fir ft applied this prin- 
ciple to philofophy, and of having, by that 
means, changed metaphyfics from being a play 
of unmeaning words, to be a rational and de- 
monftrative fcienee. On this account it de- 
ferves to be considered. 

A very obvious objection to this principle 
was* That two or more means may be equally 
fit for the fame end j and that, in fuch a cafe* 
there may be a fufficient reafon for taking one 
of the number, though there be no reafon 
for preferring one to another, of means equally 

To -obviate this objection, Leibnitz main- 
tained, that the cafe fuppofed could not happen \ 
or, if it did, that none of the means could be 
ufed, for want of a fufficient reafon to prefer one. 
to the reft. Therefore he determined, with fome 
of the fchoolmen, That if an afs could be placed 
between two bundles of hay, or two fields of 
grafs, equally inviting, the poor beaft would cer- 
tainly ftand ftill and ftarve ; but the cafe, he 
fays, could not happen without a miracle. 

When it was objected to this principle, That 
there could be no reafon but the will of God 
why the material world was placed in one part 
of unlimited fpace rather than another, or crea- 
ted at one point of unlimited duration rather 



than another, or why the planets mould move 
from welt to eaft, rather than in a contrary di- 
rection ', thefe objections Leibnitz obviated by 
maintaining, That there is no fuch thing as un- 
occupied fpace or duration ; that fpace is no- 
thing but the order of things co-exifling, and 
duration is nothing but the order of things fuc- 
ceflive ; that all motion is relative, fo that if 
there were only one body in the univerie, it 
would be immoveable ; that it is inconiiftent 
with the perfection of the Deity, that there 
Ihould be any part of fpace unoccupied by bo- 
dy ; and, I fuppofe, he underftood the fame of 
every part of duration. So that, according to 
this iyftem, the world, like its Author, muft be 
infinite, eternal, and immoveable ; or, at leaft, 
as great in extent and duration as it is poillble 
for it to be. 

When it was objected to the principle of a 
fufficient rcafon, That of two particles of mat- 
ter perfectly iimilar, there can be no reafon but 
the will of God for placing this here and that 
there ; this objection Leibnitz obviated by 
maintaining, That it is impofiible that there can 
be two particles of matter, or any two things, 
perfectly iimilar- And this Teems to have led 
him to another of his grand principles, which, 
he calls, The identity of indifcernibles. 

When the principle of a fufiicient reafon had 
produced fo many furprifing difcoveries in phi- 
lofophy, it is no wonder that it fnould determine 


412 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 9, 

the long difputed queftion about human liberty. 
This it does in a moment. The determination 
of the will is an event for which there muft be 
a fufficient reafon, that is, fomething previous, 
which was neceffarily followed by that deter- 
mination, and could not be followed by any 
other determination ; therefore it was neceflary. 

Thus we fee, that this principle of the necef- 
fity of a fufficient reafon for every thing, is very 
fruitful of confequences ; and by its ffuits we 
may judge of it. Thofe who will adopt it, muft 
adopt all the confequences that hang upon it. 
To fix them all beyond difpute, no more is ne- 
ceflary J?ut to pjQve the truth of the principle 
on which tnVv depend. 

I know*of. no argument offered by Leibnitz 
in prodf of this principle, but the authority of 
Archimedes, who, he fays, makes ufe of it to 
prove, that a balance loaded with equal weights 
on both ends, will continue at reft. 

I grant it to be good reafoning with regard to 
a balance, or with regard to any machine, That, 
when there is no external caufe of its motion, 
it muft remain at reft, becaufe the machine has 
no power of moving itfelf. But to apply this 
reafoning to a man, is to take for granted that 
the man is a machine, which is the very point 
in queftion. 

Leibnitz, and his followers, would have us 
to take this principle of the neceflity of a fuf- 
ficient reafon for every exigence, for every event, 



for every truth, as a firft principle, without 
proof, without explanation • though it be evi- 
dently a vague proposition, capable of various 
meanings, as the word reafon is. It mull have 
different meanings when applied to things of fo 
different nature as an event and a truth ; and it 
may have different meanings when applied to 
the fal|ie thing. We cannot therefore form a 
diftindl judgment of it in the grofs, but only by 
taking it fl> pieces, and applying it to different 
things, in a precife and diftinct meaning. 

It can have no connection with the difpute 
about liberty, except when it is applied to the 
determinations of the will. Let u§ v therefore 
fuppofe a voluntary action of a man ; %nd that 
the queftion is put, Whether was there a fuffi- 
cient reafon for this action or not ? 

The natural and obvious meaning of this que- 
ftion is, Was there a motive to the action fuffi- 
cient to j unify it to be wife and good, or, at 
lead, innocent ? Surely, in this fenfe, there is 
not a fufficient reafon for every human action, 
becaufe there are many that are foolifh, unrea- 
fonable and unjuftihable. 

If the meaning of the queftion be, Was there 
a caufe of the action ? Undoubtedly there was : 
Of every event there muft be a caufe, that had 
power fufficient to produce it, and that exerted 
that power for the purpofe. In the prefent cafe, 
either the man was the caufe of the action, and 
then it was a free action, and is juftly imputed 


414 ESSAY iv. [chap. 9. 

to him ; or it murt have had another caufe, and 
cannot juftly be imputed to the man. In this 
fenfe, therefore, it is granted that there was a 
fufficient reafon for the action ; but the queftion 
about liberty is not in the lead affe&ed by this 

If, again, the meaning of the queflion be, 
Was there fomething previous to the -Action, 
which made it to be neceflarily produced ? 
Every man, who believes that the action was 
free, will anfwer to this queftion in the nega- 

I know no other meaning that can be put up- 
on the principle of a fufficient reafon, when ap- 
plied to ; the determinations of the human will, 
befides the three I have mentioned. In the firft, 
it is evidently falfe ; in the fecond, it is true, 
but does not affect, the queftion about liberty \ 
in the third, it is a mere afTertion of neceflity 
without proof. 

Before we leave this boafted principle, Ave 
may fee how it applies to events of another 
kind. When we fay that a Philofopher has af- 
iigned a fufficient reafon for fuch a phenome- 
non, What is the meaning of this ? The mean- 
ing furely is, That he has accounted for it from 
the known laws of nature. The fufficient rea- 
fon of a phenomenon of nature mull therefore 
be foihe law or laws of nature, of which the 
phenomenon is a neceffary confequence. But 
are we fure that, in this fenfe, there is a fuffi- 


cient reafon for every phenomenon of nature ? 
I think we are not. 

For, not to fpeak of miraculous events, in 
which the laws of nature are fufpended, or coun- 
teracted, we know not but that, in the ordinary 
courfe of God's providence, there may be par- 
ticular acts of his adminiftration, that do not 
come under any general law of nature. 

Eftablifhed laws of nature are necefTary for 
enabling intelligent creatures to conduct their 
affairs with wifdom and prudence, and profecute 
their ends by proper means ; but ftill it may be 
fit, that fome particular events mould not be fix- 
ed by general laws, but be directed by particu- 
lar acts of the Divine government, that fo his 
reafonable creatures may have fufficient induce- 
ment to fupplicate his aid, his protection and di- 
rection, and to depend upon him for the fuccefs 
of their honeft defigns. 

We fee that, in human governments, even 
thofe that are moll legal, it is impoffible that 
every act of the administration fhould be direct- 
ed by eftablifhed laws. Some things mull be 
left to the direction of the executive power, and 
particularly acts of clemency and bounty to pe- 
titioning fubjects. That there is nothing ana- 
logous to this in the Divine government of the 
world, no man is able to prove. 

We have no authority to pray that God would 
counteract or fufpend the laws of nature in our 
behalf. Prayer, therefore, fuppofes that he may 


416 £ s S A Y iv. [chap. 9. 

lend an ear to our prayers, without tranfgreffing 
the laws of nature. Some have thought, that 
the only ufe of prayer and devotion is, to pro- 
duce a proper temper and difpofition in our- 
felves, and that it has no efficacy with the Deity. 
But this is a hypothefis without proof. It con- 
tradicts our moil natural fentiments, as well as 
the plain doctrine of Scripture, and tends to 
damp the fervour of every act of devotion. 

It was indeed an article of the fyftem of Leib- 
nitz, That the Deity, fince the creation of the 
world, never did any thing, excepting in the 
cafe of miracles ; his work being made fo per- 
fect at firft, as never to. need his interposition. 
But, in this, he was oppofed by Sir Isaac New- 
ton, and others of the ablefl Philofophers, nor 
was he ever able to give any proof of this tenet. 

There is no evidence, therefore, that there, is 
a fufficient reafon for every natural event ; if, by 
a fufficient reafon, we underftand fome fixed law 
or laws of nature, of which that event is a ne- 
ceffary confequence. 

But what, (hall we fay, is the fufficient rea- 
fon for a truth ? For our belief of a truth, I 
think, the fufficient reafon is our having good 
evidence ; but what may be meant by a fuffici- 
ent reafon for its being a truth, I am not able to 
guefs, unlefs the fufficient reafon of a contingent 
truth be, That it is true ; and, of a neceffary 
truth, that it mujl be true. This makes a man 
little wifer. 



Prom what has been faid, I think it appears, 
That this principle of the neceffity of a fufficient 
reafon for every thing, is very indefinite in its 
fignification. If it mean, That of every event 
there mult be a caufe that had fufficient power 
to produce it, this is true, and has always been 
admitted as a firit principle in Philofophy, and 
in common life. If it mean that every event 
muft be necelfarily confequent upon fomething 
,(called a fufficient reafon) that went before it ; 
this is a direct aifertion of univerfal fatality, and 
has many ftrange, not to fay abfurd, confequen- 
ces : But, in this fenfe, it is neither felf-evident, 
nor has any proof of it been offered. And, in 
general, in every fenfe in which it has evidence, 
it gives no .new information ; and, in every fenfe 
in which it would give new information, it wants 

Another argument that has been ufed to prove 
liberty of action to be impoffible is, That it im- 
plies " an effect, without a caufe." 

To this it may be briefly anfwered, That a 
free action is an effect produced by a being -who 
had power and will to produce it ; therefore it is 
not an effect, without a caufe. 

To fuppofe any other caufe neceffary to the 
production of an effect, than a being who had 
the power and the will to produce it, is a contra- 
diction ; for it is to fuppofe that being to have 
power to produce the effect, and not to have 
power to produce it. 

Vol. III. D d But 

41 8 ESSAY IV. [chap. 9. 

But as great ftrefs is laid upon this argument 
by a late zealous advocate for neceffity, we fhall 
confider the light in which he puts it. 

He introduces this argument with an obferva- 
tion to which I entirely agree : It is, That to 
eftablifh this doctrine of neceffity, nothing is 
neceffary but that, throughout all nature, the 
fame confequences fhould invariably refult from 
the fame circumftances. 

I know nothing more that can be defired to 
eftablifh univerfal fatality throughout the uni- 
verfe. When it is proved that, through ail na- 
ture, the fame confequences invariably refult 
from the fame circumftances, the doctrine of li- 
berty muft be given up. 

To prevent all ambiguity, I grant, that, in rea- 
foning, the fame confequences, throughout all 
nature, will invariably follow from the fame pre- 
mifes : Becaufe good reafoning muft be good rea- 
foning in all times and places. But this has no- 
thing to do with the doctrine of neceffity. The 
thing to be proved, therefore, in order to efta- 
blifh that doctrine, is, That, through all nature, 
the fame events invariably refult from the fame 

Of this capital point, the proof offered by that 
author is, That an event not preceded by any 
circumftances that determined it to be what it 
was, would be an effefl -without a caufe. Why 
fo ? " For, fays he, a caufe cannot be defined to 
■' be any thing but fuch previous circumftances as 

" are 


" are conjiantly followed by a certain effect ; the 
" conftancy of the refult making us conclude, 
" that there mud be afufficient reafon, in the na- 
" ture of things, why it mould be produced in 
" thofe circumftances." 

I acknowledge that, if this be the only defini- 
tion that can be given of a caufe, it will follow, 
That an event not preceded by circumftances 
that determined it to be what it was, would be, 
not an effecl without a caufe, which is a contra- 
diction in terms, but an event without a caufe, 
which I hold to be impoffible. The matter 
therefore is brought to this iifue, Whether this 
be the only definition that can be given of a 
caufe ? 

With regard to this point, we may obferve, 
firfi, That this definition of a caufe, bating the 
phrafeology of putting a caufe under the catego- 
ry of circumftances, which I take to be new, is 
the fame, in other words, with that which Mr 
Hume gave, of which he ought to be acknow- 
ledged the inventor. For I know of no author 
before Mr Hume, who maintained, that we have 
no other notion of a caufe, but that it is fome- 
thing prior to the effect, which has been found 
by experience to be conftantly followed by the 
effecl. This is a main pillar of his fyftem ; and 
•he has drawn very important confequences from 
this definition, which I am far from thinking 
this author will adopt. 

D d 2 Without 

420 ESSAY IV. [chap, g, 

Without repeating what I have before faid of 
caufes in the firft of thefe Effays, and in the fe- 
cond and third chapters of this, I jfhall here' 
mention fome of the confequences that may be 
juftly deduced from this definition of a caufe, 
that we may judge of it by its fruits. 

Firjl, It follows from this definition of a caufe, 
that night is the caufe of day, and day the caufe 
of night. For no two things have more conftant- 
ly followed each other fince the beginning of the 

Secondly, It follows from this definition of a 
caufe, that, for what we know, any thing may 
be the caufe of any thing, fince nothing is effen- 
tial to a caufe but its being conftantly followed 
by the effect. If this be fo, what is unintelli- 
gent may be the caufe of what is intelligent ; 
folly may be the caufe of wifdom, and evil of 
good : all reafoning from the nature of the effect 
to the nature of the caufe, and all reafoning from 
final caufes, muft be given up as fallacious. 

Thirdly, From this definition of a caufe, it fol- 
lows, that we have no reafon to conclude, that 
every event mud have a caufe : For innumerable 
events happen, when it cannot be fhewn that 
there were certain previous circumftances that 
have conftantly been followed by fuch an event. 
And though it were certain, that every event we 
have had accefs to obferve had a caufe, it would 
not follow, that every event muft have a caufe : 
For it is contrary to the rules of logic to con- 


elude, that, becaufe a thing has always been, 
therefore it mull be ; to reafon from what is 
contingent, to what is neceffary. 

Fourthly, From this definition of a caufe, it 
w 7 ould follow, that we have no reafon to con- 
clude that there was any caufe of the creation of 
this world : For there were no previous circum- 
irances that had been conftantly followed by 
fuch an effect. And, for the fame reafon, it 
would follow from the definition, that whatever 
was lingular in its nature, or the firft thing of its 
kind, could have no caufe. 

Several of thefe confequences were fondly em- 
braced by Mr Hume, as necelTarily following; 
from his definition of a caufe, and as favourable 
to his fyftem of abfoiute fcepticifm. Thofe who 
adopt the definition of a caufe, from which they 
follow, may choofe whether they will adopt its 
confequences, or fhew that they do not follow 
from the definition. 

Kfecond obfervation with regard to this argu- 
ment is, That a definition of a caufe may be gi- 
ven, which is not burdened with fuch untoward 

Why may not an efficient caufe be defined to 
be a being that had power and will to produce 
the effect ? The production of an effect require; 
active power, and active power, being a quality, 
muft be in a being endowed with that power. 
Power without will produces no effect j but, 
D & 5 where 

4^2 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 9. 

where thefe are conjoined, the effect muft be 

This, I think, is the proper meaning of the 
word caufe, when it is ufed in metaphyiics ; and 
particularly when we affirm, that every thing 
that begins to exift muft have a caufe ; and 
when, by reafoning, we prove, that there mull 
be an eternal Firft Caufe of all things. 

Was the world produced by previous circum- 
fiances which are conftantly followed by fuch an 
effect ? or, Was it produced by a Being that had 
power to produce it, and willed its production ? 

In natural philofophy, the word caufe is often 
ufed in a very different fenfe. When an event 
is produced according to a known law of na- 
ture, the law of nature is called the caufe of that 
event. But a law of nature is not the efficient 
caufe of any event. It is only the rule, accord- 
ing to which the efficient caufe acts. A law is 
a thing conceived in the mind of a rational be- 
ing, not a thing that has a real exiftence ; and, 
therefore, like a motive, it can neither act nor be 
acted upon, and confequently cannot be an effi- 
cient caufe. If there be no being that acts ac- 
cording to the law, it produces no effect. 

This author takes it for granted, that every 
voluntary action of man was determined to be 
what it was by the laws of nature, in the fame 
fenfe as mechanical motions are determined by 
the laws of motion ; and that every choice, not 
thus determined, " is juft as impoffible, as that a 

" mechanical 


" mechanical motion mould depend upon no 
" certain law or rule, or that any other effect 
" mould exift without a caufe." 

It ought here to be obferved, that there are 
two kinds of laws, both very properly called 
laws of nature, which ought not to be confound- 
ed. There are moral laws of nature, and phyfi- 
cal laws of nature. The firft are the rules which 
God has prefcribed to his rational creatures for 
their conduct. They refpect voluntary and free 
actions only ; for no other actions can be fubject 
to moral rules. Thefe laws of nature ought to 
be always obeyed, but they are often tranfgreffed 
by men. There is therefore no impoffibility in 
the violation of the moral laws of nature, nor is 
fuch a violation an effect without a caufe. The 
tranfgreffor is the caufe, and is juftly account- 
able for it. 

The phyfical Jaws of nature are the rules ac- 
cording to which the Deity commonly acts in 
his natural government of the world ; and, what- 
ever is done according to them, is not done by 
man, but by God, either immediately, or by in- 
ftruments under his direction. Thefe laws of 
nature neither reftrain the power of the Author 
of nature, nor bring him under any obligation 
to do nothing beyond their fphere. He has 
fometimes acted contrary to them, in the cafe of 
miracles, and perhaps often acts without regard 
to them, in the ordinary courfe of his provi- 
dence. Neither miraculous events, which are 
D d 4 contrary 

4M ESSAY IV: [CHA^.^o 

contrary to -the phylical laws of nature, nor fuch 
ordinary ads of the Divine adminiftration as are 
without their fphere, are impoffible, nor are they 
ejfeSls without a caufe. God is the eaufe of 
them, and to him only they are to be imputed. 

That the moral laws of nature are often trani- 
greffed by man, is undeniable. If the phylical 
laws of nature make his obedience to the moral 
laws to be impoffible, then he is, in the literal 
fenfe, born under one law, bound unto another, 
which contradicts every notion of a righteous 
government of the world. 

But though this fuppofition were attended 
with no fuch mocking confequence, it is merely 
a fuppofition ; and until it be proved that every 
choice or voluntary action of man is determined, 
by the phylical laws of nature, this argument for 
neceffity is only the taking for granted the point 
to be proved. 

Of the fame kind is the argument for the im- 
poffibility of liberty, taken from a balance, 
which cannot move but as it is moved by the 
weights put into it. This argument, though ur- 
ged by almoft every writer in defence of necef- 
iity, is fo pitiful, and has been fo often anfwer- 
ed, that it fcarce defer ves to be mentioned. 

Every argument in a difpute, which is not 
grounded on principles granted by both parties, 
is that kind of fophifm which logicians call pe- 
titio principii ; and fuch, in my apprehenfion, are 



all the arguments offered to prove that liberty of 
action is impoffible. 

It may farther be obferved, that every argu- 
ment of this clafs, if it were really conclulive^ 
mult extend to the Deity, as well as to all crea- 
ted beings ; and neceffary exiftence, which has 
always been conlidered as the prerogative of the 
Supreme Being, mull belong equally to every 
creature and to every event, even the moil tri- 

This I take to be the fyllem of Spinosa, and 
of thofe among the ancients who carried fatality 
to the higheil pitch. 

I before referred the reader to Dr Clarke's 
argument, which profeffes to demonllrate, that 
the Firft Caufe is a free agent. Until that argu- 
ment fhall be fhewn to be fallacious, a thing 
which I have not feen attempted, fuch weak ar- 
guments as have been brought to prove the con- 
trary, ought to have little weight. 


The fame fubjetl. 

ITH regard to the fecond clafs of argu- 
ments for heceffity, which are intended 
to prove, that liberty of action would be hurtful 
to man, I have only to obferve, that it is a fact, 
too evident to be denied, whether we adopt the 
fyllem of liberty cr that of neceffity, that men 


426 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 10. 

actually receive hurt from their own voluntary 
actions, and from the voluntary actions of other 
men ; nor can it be pretended, that this fact is 
inconfiftent with the doctrine of liberty, or that 
it is more unaccountable upon this fyftem than 
upon that of neceffity. 

In order, therefore, to draw any folid argu- 
ment againft liberty, from its hurtfulnefs, it 
ought to be proved, That, if man were a free 
agent, he would do more hurt to himfelf, or to 
others, than he actually does. 

To this purpofe it has been faid, That liberty 
would make men's actions capricious 3 that it 
would deftroy the influence of motives ; that it 
would take away the effect of rewards and pu- 
niftiments ; and that it would make man abfo- 
lutely ungovernable. 

Thefe arguments have been already confider- 
ed in the fourth and fifth chapters of this Effav ; 
and, therefore, I (hall now proceed to the third 
clafs of arguments for neceffity, which are in- 
tended to prove, that, in fact, men are not free. 

The moil formidable argument of this clals, 
and, I think, the only one that has not been 
confidered in fome of the preceding chapters, is 
taken from the prefcience of the Deity. 

God forefees every determination of the hu- 
man mind. It mull therefore be what he fore- 
fees it {hall be : and therefore muf; be neceffary. 



This argument may be underftood three dif- 
ferent ways, each of which we mall consider, 
that we may fee all its force. 

The neceffity of the event may be thought to 
be a juft confequence, either barely from its be- 
ing certainly future, or barely from its being 
forefeen, or from the impofiibility of its being 
forefeen, if it was not neceflary. 

Fir/l, It may be thought, that, as nothing can 
be known to be future which is not certainly fu- 
ture ; fo, if it be certainly future, it mull be ne- 

This opinion has no lefs authority in its fa- 
vour than that of Aristotle, who indeed held 
the doctrine of liberty, but believing, at the 
fame time, that whatever is certainly future 
mull be neceflary ; in order to defend the liber- 
ty of human actions, maintained, That contin- 
gent events have no certain futurity ; but I 
know of no modern advocate for liberty, who ha< 
put the defence of it upon that iflue. 

It muft be granted, that as whatever was, cer- 
tainly was, and whatever is, certainly is, fo 
whatever fhall be, certainly {hall be. Thefe are 
identical proportions, and cannot be doubted by 
thofe who conceive them diftinctly. 

But I know no rule of reafoning by which it 
can be inferred, that, becaufe an event certainly 
mail be, therefore its production muft be necef- 
fary. The manner of its production, whether 
free or ncceflsrv, cannot be concluded from the 



time of its production, whether it be pall, pre- 
fect or future. That it fhall be, no more implies 
that it fhall be neceffarily, than that it fhall be 
freely produced ; for neither prefent, paft, nor 
future, have any more connection with necefhty 
than they have with freedom. 

I grant, therefore, that, from events being 
forefeen, it may be juftly concluded, that they 
are certainly future ; but from their being cer- 
tainly future, it does riot follow that they are ne- 

Secondly, If it be meant by this argument, that 
an event muff be neceffary, merely becaufe it is 
forefeen, neither is this a juft confequence : For 
it has often been obferved, That prefcience and 
knowledge of every kind, being an immanent 
act, has no effect upon the thing known. Its 
mode of exigence, whether it be free or neceffa- 
ry, is not in the leaft affected by its being known 
to be future, any more than by its being known 
to be paft or prefent. The Deity forefees his 
own future free actions, but neither his forefight 
nor his purpofe makes them neceffary. The ar- 
gument, therefore, taken in this view, as well as 
in the former, is inconclufive. 

A third way in which this argument may be 
underftood, is this : It is impoffible that an event 
which is not neceffary fliould be forefeen \ there- 
fore every event that is certainly forefeen, muff 
be neceffary. Here the conclufion certainly fol- 
lows from the antecedent proportion, and there- 


fore the whole ftrefs of the argument lies upon 
the proof of that proportion. 

Let us confider, therefore, whether it can be 
proved, That no free action can be certainly 
forefeen. If this can be proved, it will follow, 
either that all actions are neceffary, or that all 
actions cannot be forefeen. 

With regard to the general proposition, That 
it is impoffible that any free action can be cer- 
tainly forefeen, I obferve, 

Firjty That every man who believes the Deity 
to be a free agent, muft believe that this propo- 
rtion not only is incapable of proof, but that it 
is certainly falfe : For the man himfelf forefees, 
that the Judge of all the earth will always do 
what is right, ; and that he will fulfil whatever 
he has promifed ; and at the fame time, believes, 
that, in doing what is right, and in fulfilling his 
promifes, the Deity acts with the moft perfect 

Secondly, I obferve, That every man who be- 
lieves that it is an abfurdity or contradiction, 
that any free action fhould be certainly forefeen, 
muft believe, if he will be confident, either that 
the Deity is not a free agent, or that he does 
not forefee his own actions ; nor can we forefec 
that he will do what is right, and will fulfil his 

Thirdly, Without conlidering the confequen- 
ees which this general propofition carries in its 


45° ESSAY IV. [chap. 10. 

bofom, which give it a very bad afpect, let us 
attend to the arguments offered to prove it. 

Dr Priestly has laboured more in the proof 
of this proportion than any other author I am 
acquainted with, and maintains it to be, not only 
a difficulty and a myftery, as it has been called, 
that a contingent event mould be the object of 
knowledge, but that, in reality, there cannot be 
a greater abfurdity or contradiction. Let us 
hear the proof of this. 

" For, fays he, as certainly as nothing can be 
"" known to exift, but what does exift, fo cer- 
" tainly can nothing be known to arife from 
" what does exift, but what does arife from it or 
" depend upon it. But, according to the defi- 
" nition of the terms, a contingent event does 
" not depend upon any previous known circum- 
" fiances, fince fome other event might have 
" arifen in the fame circumftances." 

This argument, when ftripped of incidental 
and explanatory claufes, and affected variations 
of expreffion, amounts to this : Nothing can be 
known to arife from what does exift, but what 
does arife from it : But a contingent event does 
not arife from what does exift. The conclufion, 
which is left to be drawn by the reader, mult, 
according to the rules of reafoning, be : There- 
fore a contingent event cannot be known to arife 
from what does exift. 

It is here very obvious, that a thing may arife 
from what does exift, two ways, freely or ne- 

' cefiarilv. 


cefifarily. A contingent event arifes from its 
caufe, not neceifarily but freely, and fo, that 
another event might have arifen from the fame 
caufe, in the fame circumftances. 

The fecond propofition of the argument is, 
That a contingent event does not depend upon 
any previous known circumftances, which I take 
to be only a variation of the term of not drifting 
from what does exift. Therefore, in order to 
make the two proportions to correfpond, we 
mull underftand by arijing from what does exifl, 
arifing necefTarily from what does exift. When 
this ambiguity is removed, the argument ftands 
thus : Nothing can be known to arife neceifarily 
from what does exift, but what does neceifarily 
arife from it : But a contingent event does not 
arife neceifarily from what does exift ; therefore 
a contingent event cannot be known to arife ne- 
cefTarily from what does exift. 

I grant the whole ; but the conclusion of this 
argument is not what he undertook to prove, 
and therefore the argument is that, kind of fo- 
phifm which logicians call ignorantia elenchi. 

The thing to be proved is not, That a con- 
tingent event cannot be known to arife neceifa- 
rily from what exifts ; but that a contingent fu- 
ture event cannot be the object of knowledge. 

To draw the argument to this conclufion, it 
muft be put thus: Nothing can be known to 
arife from what does exift, but what arifes ne- 
ceifarily from it : But a contingent event does 


4J2 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 10. 

not arife necefTarily from what does exift ; there- 
fore a contingent event cannot be known to arife 
from what does exift. 

The conclufion here is what it ought to be ; 
but the firft propofition affumes the thing to be 
proved, and therefore the argument is what lo- 
gicians call petitio principii. 

To the fame purpofe he fays, " That nothing 
'** can be known at prefent, except itfelf or its 
" neceffary caufe exift at prefent." 

This is affirmed, but I find no proof of it. 

Again he fays, " That knowledge fuppofes an 
** object, which, in this cafe, does not exift." 
It is true that knowledge fuppofes an object, 
and every thing that is known is an object of 
knowledge, whether paft, prefent, or future, 
whether contingent or neceffary. 

Upon the whole, the arguments I can find up- 
on this point, bear no proportion to the confi- 
dence of the affertion, that there cannot be a 
greater abfurdity or contradiction, than that a 
contingent event fhould be the object of know- 

To thofe who, without pretending to fliew a 
manifeft abfurdity or contradiction in the know- 
ledge of future contingent events, are ftill of 
opinion, that it is impoffible that the future free 
actions of man, a being of imperfect wifdom and 
virtue, {hould be certainly foreknown, I would 
humbly offer the following confiderations. 



i. I grant that there is no knowledge of this 
kind in man ; and this is the caufe that we find 
it fo difficult to conceive it in any other being. 

All our knowledge of future events is drawn 
either from their neceffary connection with the 
prefent courfe of nature, or from their connec- 
tion with the character of the agent that produ- 
ces them. Our knowledge, even of thofe future 
events that neceflarily refult from the eftablifh- 
ed laws of nature, is hypothetical. It fuppofes 
the continuance of thofe laws with which they 
are connected. And how long thofe laws may 
be continued, we have no certain knowledge. 
God only knows when the prefent courfe of na- 
ture fhall be changed, and therefore he only has 
certain knowledge even of events of this kind. 

The character of perfect wifdom and perfect 
rectitude in the Deity, gives us certain know- 
ledge that he will always be true in all his de- 
clarations, faithful in all his promifes, and jufi 
in all his difpenfations. But when we reafon 
from the character of men to their future ac- 
tions, though, in many cafes, we have fuch pro- 
bability as we reft upon in our mod important 
worldly concerns, yet we have no certainty, be- 
caufe men are imperfect in wifdom and in virtue. 
If we had even the moil perfect knowledge of 
the character and fituation of a man, this would 
not be fufficient to give certainty to our know- 
ledge of his future actions ; becaufe, in fome 
Vol. III. Ee actions. 

434 ESSAY IV. [chap, ic, 

actions, both good and bad men deviate from 
their general character. 

The preference of the Deity, therefore, muft 
be different not only in degree, but in kind, 
from any knowledge we can attain of futurity. 

2. Though we can have no conception how 
the future free actions of men may be known by 
the Deity, this is not a fufheient reafon to con- 
clude that they cannot be known. Do we 
know, or can we conceive, how God knows the 
fecrets of mens hearts ? Can we conceive how 
God made this world without any pre-exiftent 
matter ? All the ancient Philofophers believed 
this to be impoflible : And for what reafon but 
this, that they could not conceive how it could 
be done. Can we give any better reafon for be- 
lieving that the actions of men cannot be certain- 
ly forefeen ? 

3. Can we conceive how we ourfelves have 
certain knowledge by thofe faculties with which 
God has endowed us ? If any man thinks that he 
nnderftands diftinctly how he is confeious of his 
own thoughts ; how he perceives external ob- 
jects by his fenfes ; how he remembers part e- 
vents, I am afraid that he is not yet fo wife as 
to underfland his own ignorance. 

4. There feems to me to be a great analogy 
between the prefcience of future contingents, 
and the memory of pad contingents. We pof- 
fefs the lafl in fome degree, and therefore find 
no difficulty in believing that it may be perfect 



in the Deity. But the firft we have in no de- 
gree, and therefore are apt to think it impoflible. 

In both, the object of knowledge is neither 
what prefently exifts, nor has any neceffary con- 
nection with what prefently exifts. Every ar- 
gument brought to prove the impofiibility of 
prefcience, proves, with equal force, the impof- 
fibility of memory. If it be true that nothing 
can be known to arife from what does exift, but 
what neceflarily arifes from it, it muft be equal- 
ly true, that nothing can be known to have gone 
before what does exift, but what muft neceflarily 
have gone before it. If it be true that nothing 
future can be known unlefs its neceffary caufe 
exift at prefent, it muft be equally true that no- 
thing paft can be known unlefs fomething confe- 
quent, with which it is neceflarily connected, 
exift at prefent. If the fatal i ft fhould fay, That 
paft events are indeed neceflarily connected with 
the prefent, he will not furely venture to fay, 
that it is by tracing this neceffary connection, 
that we remember the paft. 

Why then fhould we think prefcience impof- 
fible in the Almighty, when he has given us a 
faculty which bears a ftrong analogy to it, and 
which is no lefs unaccountable to the human un- 
derstanding, than prefcience is. It is more rea- 
fonable, as well as more agreeable to the facred 
writings, to conclude with a pious father of the 
church, " Quoc.rca nullo modo cogimur, aut re- 
" tenta prxicientja Dm tollere voluntatis arbi- 
Ee2 '* trium. 

436 ESSAY IV. [chap. II, 

" trium, aut retento voluntatis arbitrio, Dzum, 
" quod nefas eft, negare " praefcium futurorum : 
"- Sed utrumque ampledtimur, utrumque fideli- 
" ter et veraciter confitemur : Illud ut bene ere- 
" damus \ hoc ut bene vivamus." Aug. 


Of the Permiffton of Evil. 

ANOTHER ufe- has been made of Divine 
prefcience by the advocates for neceffityv 
which it is proper to confider before we leave 
this fubjecl. 

It has been faid, " That all thofe confequen- 
" ces follow from the Divine prefcience which 
" are thought moft alarming in the fcheme of ne- 
" ceffity ; and particularly God's being the pro- 
" per caufe of moral evil. For, to fuppofe Gor> 
" to forefee and permit what it was in his power 
il to have prevented, is the very fame thing, as 
" to fuppofe him to will, and directly to caufe it. 
" He diftinftly forefees all the aclions of aman's. 
" life, and all the confequences of them : If, 
" therefore, he did not think any particular man 
" and his conduct proper for his plan of crea- 
" tion and providence, he certainly would not 
il have introduced him into being at all." 

In this reafoning we may obferve, that a fup- 
pontion is made which feems to contradict itfelf. 



That all the actions of a particular man mould 
be diflinctly forefeen, and, at the fame time, that 
that man mould never be brought into exiftence, 
feems to me to be a contradiction : And the 
fame contradiction there is, in fuppofing any ac- 
tion to be diftin&ly forefeen, and yet prevented. 
For, if it be forefeen, it mail happen ; and, if it 
be prevented, it mail not happen, and therefore 
could not be forefeen. 

The knowledge here fuppofed is neither pre- 
fcience nor fcience, but fomething very different 
from both. It is a kind of knowledge, which 
fome metaphyfical divines, in their controverlies 
about the order of the Divine decrees, a fubject 
far beyond the limits of human underftanding, 
attributed to the Deity, and of which other di- 
vines denied the poflibility, while they firmly 
maintained the Divine prefcience. 

It was called fcientia media, to diftinguifh it 
from prefcience \ and by this fcientia media was 
meant, not the knowing from eternity all things 
that fhall exift, which is prefcience, nor the 
knowing all the connections and relations of 
things that exift or may be conceived, which is 
fcience, but a knowledge of things contingent, 
that never did nor fhall exift. For inftance, the 
knowing every action that would be done by a 
man who is barely conceived, and fhall never be 
brought into exiftence. 

Againft the poflibility of the fcientia media ar- 
guments may be urged, which cannot be applied 
E e 3 to 


to prefcicnce. Thus it may be faid, that no 
thing can be known but what is true. It is true 
that the future actions of a free agent (hall exift, 
and therefore we fee no impoflibility in its being 
known that they fhall exift : But with regard to 
the free actions of an agent that never did nor 
ihall exift, there is nothing true, and therefore 
nothing can be known. To fay that the being 
conceived, would certainly act in fuch a way, if 
placed in fuch a fttuation, if it have any mean- 
ing, is to fay, That his acting in that way is the 
eonfequence of the conception ; but this contra- 
dicts the fuppofition of its being a free action. 

Things merely conceived have no relations or 
connections but fuch as are implied in the con- 
ception, or are confequent from it. Thus I con- 
ceive two circles in the fame plane. If this be 
all I conceive, it is not true that thefe circles are 
equal or unequal, becaufe neither of thefe rela- 
tions is implied in the conception ; yet if the two 
circles really exifted, they muft be either equal 
or unequal. Again, I conceive two circles in 
the fame plane, the diftance of whofe centres is 
equal to the fum of their femidiameters. It is 
true of thefe circles, that they will touch one 
another, becaufe this follows from the concep- 
tion ; but it is not true that they will be equal 
or unequal, becaufe neither of thefe relations is 
implied in the conception, nor is confequent 
from it. 


In like manner, I can conceive a being who 
has power to do an indifferent action, or not to 
do it. It is not true that he would do it, nor is 
it true that he would not do it, becaufe neither 
is implied in my conception, nor follows from 
it ; and what is not true cannot be known. 

Though I do not perceive any fallacy in this 
argument againft %. fcientia media, I am fenfible 
how apt we are to err in applying what belongs 
to our conceptions and our knowledge, to the 
conceptions and knowledge of the Supreme Be- 
ing ; and, therefore, without pretending to de- 
termine for or againft a fcientia media, I only 
obferve, that, to fuppofe that the Deity prevents 
what he foreiees by his prefcience, is a contra- 
diction, and that to know that a contingent e- 
vent which he fees fit not to permit would cer- 
tainly happen if permitted, is not prefcience, but 
the fcientia media, whofe exiftence or poffibility 
we are under no neceffity of admitting. 

Waving all difpute about fcientia media, we 
acknowledge, that nothing can happen under 
the adminiftration of the Deity, which he does 
not fee fit to permit. The permiflion of natural 
and moral evil, is a phenomenon which cannot 
be difputed. To account for this phenomenon 
under the government of a Being of infinite 
goodnefs, juitice, wifdom and power, has, in all 
ages, been confidered as difficult to human rea- 
fon, whether we embrace the fyftem of liberty 
or that of neceffity. But, if the difficulty of ac- 
Eej. counting 

44° ESSAY IV. [chap. II* 

counting for this phenomenon upon the fyftem 
of neceffity, be as great as it is upon the fyftem 
of liberty, it can have no weight when ufed as 
an argument againfl liberty. 

The defenders of neceffity, to reconcile it to 
the principles of Theifm, find themfelves obli- 
ged to give up all the moral attributes of God, 
excepting that of goodnefs, or a defire to pro- 
duce happinefs. This they hold to be the fole 
motive of his making and governing the uni- 
verfe. Juftice, veracity, faithfulnefs, are only 
modifications of goodnefs, the means of promo- 
ting its purpofes, and are exercifed only fo far 
as they ferve.that end. Virtue is acceptable to 
him, and vice difpleafing, only as the firft tends 
to produce happinefs and the laft mifery. He is 
the proper cauie and agent of all moral evil as 
well as good % but it is for a good end, to pro- 
duce the greater happinefs to his creatures. He 
does evil that good may come, and this end 
fanctifies the word actions that contribute to it. 
All the wickednefs of men being the work of 
God, he muil, when he furveys it, pronounce it, 
as well as all his other works, to be very good. 

This view of the Divine nature, the only one 
conliftent with the fcheme of neceffity, appears 
to me much more (hocking than the permiffion 
of evil upon the fcheme of liberty. It is faid, 
that it requires Only 'jlrength of mind to embrace 
it : To me it feems to require much ftrength of 
countenance to profefs it. 



In this fyftem, as in Cleanthes' Tablature 
of the Epicurean fyftem, pleafure or happinefs 
is placed upon the throne as the queen, to whom 
all the virtues bear the humble office of menial 

As the end of the Deity, in all his actions, is 
not his own good, which can receive no addi- 
tion, but the good of his creatures ; and, as his 
creatures are capable of this difpofition in fome 
degree, is he not pleafed with this image of him- 
felf in his creatures, and difpleafed with the con- 
trary ? Why then fhould he be the author of 
malice, envy, revenge, tyranny and oppreffion, 
in their hearts ? Other vices that have no male- 
volence in them may pleafe fuch a Deity, but 
i'urely malevolence cannot pleafe him. 

If we form our notions of the moral attributes 
of the Deity from what we fee of his govern- 
ment of the world, from the dictates of reafon 
and confcience, or from the doctrine of revela- 
tion ; juftice, veracity, faithfulnefs, the love of 
virtue and diflike of vice, appear to be no lefs ef- 
fential attributes of his nature and goodnefs. 

In man, who is made after the image of God, 
goodnefs or benevolence is indeed an effential 
part of virtue, but it is not the whole. 

I am at a lofs what arguments can be brought 
to prove goodnefs to be effential to the Deity, 
which will not, with equal force, prove other 
moral attributes to be fo ; or what objections can 
be brought againft the latter, which have not 



equal flrength againft the former, unlefs it be 
admitted to be an objection againfl: other moral 
attributes, that they do not accord with the doc- 
trine of neceflity. 

If other moral evils may be attributed to the 
Deity as the means of promoting general good, 
why may not falfe declarations and falfe promi- 
fes ? And then what ground have we left to be- 
lieve the truth of what he reveals, or to rely up- 
on what he promifes ? 

Suppofing this ftrange view of the Divine na- 
ture were to be adopted in favour of the doclrine 
of neceflity, there is ftill a great difficulty to be 

Since it is fuppofed, that the Supreme Being 
had no other end in making and governing the 
univerfe, but to produce the greatelt degree of 
happinefs to his creatures in general, how comes 
it to pafs, that there is lb much mifery in a fy- 
ftem made and governed by infinite wifdom and 
power for a contrary purpofe ? 

The folution of this difficulty leads us necef- 
farily to another hypothefis, That all the mifery 
and vice that is in the world is a neceffary in- 
gredient in that fyftem which produces the great- 
eft fum of happinefs upon the whole. This con- 
nection betwixt the greateft fum of happinefs 
and all the mifery that is in the univerfe, muft 
be fatal and neceffary in the nature of things, fo 
that even Almighty power cannot break it : For 



benevolence can never lead to inflict mifery with- 
out neceffity. 

This necefiary connection between the great- 
ell fum of happinefs upon the whole, and all the 
natural and moral evil that is, or has been, or 
fhall be, being once eilablifhed, it is impoffible 
for mortal eyes to difcern how far this evil may 
extend, or on whom it may happen to fall ; whe- 
ther this fatal connection may be temporary or 
eternal, or what proportion of the happinefs may 
be balanced by it. 

A world made by perfect wifdom and Almigh- 
ty power, for no other end but to make it hap- 
py, prefents the moil pleafing profpect that can. 
be imagined. We expect nothing but uninter- 
rupted happinefs to prevail for ever. But, alas ! 
when we confider that in this happielt fyftem, 
there mil ft be necefTarily all the mifery and vice 
we fee, and how much more we know not, how 
is the profpect darkened ! 

Thefe two hypothefes, the one limiting the 
moral character of the Deity, the other limiting 
his power, feem to me to be the neceffary confe- 
quences of neceffity, when it is joined with The- 
ifm ; and they have accordingly been adopted 
by the ableft defenders of that doctrine. 

If fome defenders of liberty, by limiting too 
rafhly the Divine prefcience, in order to defend 
that fyftem, have raifed high indignation in their 
opponents ; have they not equal ground of in- 
dignation againft thofe, who, to defend neceffity, 


444 ESSAY IV. [chap, xi, 

limit the moral perfection of the Deity, and his 
Almighty power ? 

Let us confider, on the other hand, what con- 
fluences may be fairly drawn from God's per- 
mitting the abufe of liberty in agents on whom 
he has bellowed it. 

If it be afked, Why does God permit fo much 
iin in his creation ? I confefs I cannot anfwer 
the queftion, but mull lay my hand upon my 
mouth. He giveth no account of his conduct to 
the children of men. It is our part to obey his 
commands, and not to fay unto him, Why doll 
thou thus ? 

Hypothefes might be framed ; but, while we 
have ground to be fatisfied, that he does nothing 
but what is right, it is more becoming us to ac- 
knowledge that the ends and reafons of his uni- 
verfal government are beyond our knowledge, 
and perhaps beyond the comprehenlion of hu- 
man underflandirig. We cannot penetrate fo far 
into the counfel of the Almighty, as to know all 
the reafons why it became him, of whom are all 
things, and to whom are all things, to create, not 
only machines, which are folely moved by his 
hand, but fervants and children, who, by obey- 
ing his commands, and imitating his moral per- 
fections, might rife to a high degree of glory and 
happinefs in his favour, or, by perverfe difobedi- 
ence, might incur guilt and juft punifhment. In 
this he appears to us awful in his juflice, as well 
as amiable in his goodnefs. 



But, as he difdains not to appeal to men for 
the equity of his proceedings towards them when 
his character is impeached, we may, with humble 
reverence, plead for God, and vindicate that mo- 
ral excellence which is the glory of his nature, 
and of which the image is the glory and the per- 
fection of mam 

Let us obferve firft of all, that to permit hath 
two meanings. It fignifies not to forbid ; and it 
fignifies not to hinder by fuperior power. In the 
firft of thefe fenfes, God never permits fin. His 
law forbids every moral evil. By his laws and 
by his government, he gives every encourage- 
ment to good conduct, and every difcourage- 
ment to bad. But he does not always, by his 
fuperior power, hinder it from being committed. 
This is the ground of the accufation ; and this, it 
is faid, is the very fame thing as directly to will 
and to caufe it. 

As this is aflerted without proof, and is far 
from being felf-evident, it might be fufficient to 
deny it until it be proved. But, without refting 
barely on the defenfive, we may obferve, that 
the only moral attributes that can be fuppofed 
inconfiftent with the permiflion of fin, are either 
goodnefs or juftice. 

The defenders of neceiftty, with whom we 
have to do in this point, as they maintain that 
goodnefs is the only effential moral attribute of 
the Deity, and the motive of all his actions, 
muft, if they will be confident, maintain, That 



to will, and directly to caufe fin, much more not 
to hinder it, is confiftent with perfect goodnefs, 
nay, that goodnefs is a fufficient motive to jufti- 
£y the willing and directly caufing it. 

With regard to them, therefore, it is furely 
unnecefiary to attempt to reconcile the permif- 
fion of fin with the goodnefs of God, fince an in- 
confiftency between that attribute and the cau- 
fing of fin would overturn their whole fyftem. 

If the caufing of moral evil, and being the 
real author of it, be confiftent with perfect good- 
nefs, what pretence can there be to fay, that not 
to hinder it is inconfiftent with perfecl: good- 
nefs ? 

What is incumbent upon them, therefore, to 
prove, is, That the permiffion of fin is inconfift- 
ent with juftice ; and, upon this point, we are 
ready to join ifTue with them. 

But what pretence can there be to fay, that 
the permiffion of fin is perfectly confiftent with 
goodnefs in the Deity, but inconfiftent with ju- 
ftice ? 

Is it not as eafy to conceive, that he fhould 
permit fin, though virtue be his delight, as that 
he inflicts mifery, when his fole delight is to be- 
flow happinefs ? Should it appear incredible, that 
the permiffion of fin may tend to promote vir- 
tue, to them who believe that the infliction of 
mifery is necefTary to promote happinefs ? 

The juftice, as well as the goodnefs of God's 
moral government of mankind, appears in this.: 



That his laws are not arbitrary nor grievous, as 
it is only by the obedience of them that our na- 
ture can be perfected and qualified for future 
happinefs ; that he is ready to aid our weaknefs, 
to help our infirmities, and not to fuffer us to be 
tempted above what we are able to bear ; that 
he is not Uriel: to mark iniquity, or to execute 
judgment fpeedily againfl an evil work, but is 
long-fuffering, and waits to be gracious ; that he 
is ready to receive the humble penitent to his fa- 
vour ; that he is no refpecter of perfons, but in 
every nation he that fears God and works righ- 
teoufnefs is accepted of him ; that of every man 
he will require an account, proportioned to the 
talents he hath received ; that he delights in 
mercy, but hath no pleafure in the death of the 
wicked ; and therefore in punifhing will never 
go beyond the demerit of the criminal, nor be- 
yond what the rules of his univerfal government 

There were, in ancient ages, fome who.faid, 
the way of the Lord is not equal ; to whom the 
Prophet, in the name of God, makes this reply, 
which, in all ages, is fufficient to repel this ac- 
cufation. Hear now, O houfe of Ifrael, is not 
my way equal, are not your ways unequal ? 
When a righteous man turneth away from his 
righteoufnefs, and committeth iniquity ; for his 
iniquity which he hath done mail he die. Again, 
when a wicked man turneth away from his wick- 
ednefs that he hath committed, and doth that 



^hich is lawful and right, he fhall fave his foul 
alive. O houfe of Ifrael, are not my ways equal, 
are not your ways unequal ? Repent, and turn 
from all your tranfgreffions, fo iniquity fhall not 
be your ruin. Caft away from you all your tranf- 
greffions whereby you have tranfgreffed, and 
make you a new heart and a new fpirit, for why 
will ye die, O houfe of Ifrael ? For I have no plea- 
fure in the death of him that dieth, faith the 
Lord God. 

Another argument for neceffity has been late- 
ly offered, which we fhall very briefly confider. 

It has been maintained, that the power of 
thinking is the refult of a certain modification of 
matter, and that a certain configuration of brain 
makes a foul ; and, if man be wholly a material 
being, it is faid, that it will not be denied, that 
he muft be a mechanical being ; that the doc- 
trine of neceffity is a direct inference from that 
of materialifm, and its undoubted confequence. 

As this argument can have no weight with 
thofe who do not fee reafon to embrace this fy- 
ftem of materialifm ; fo, even with thofe who do, 
it feems to me to be a mere fophifm. 

Philofophers have been wont to conceive mat- 
ter to be an inert paffive being, and to have cer- 
tain properties inconiiftent with the power of 
thinking or of acting. But a Philofopher arifes, 
who proves, we fhall fuppofe, that we were 
quite miftaken in our notion of matter ; that it 
has not the properties we fuppofcd, and, in fact, 



has no properties but thofe of attraction and re- 
pulfion ; but ft ill he thinks, that, being matter, 
it will not be denied that it is a mechanical be- 
ing, and that the doctrine of neceffity is a direct 
inference from that of materialifm. 

Herein, however, he deceives himfelf. If mat- 
ter be what we conceived it to be, it is equally 
incapable of thinking and of acting freely. But. 
if the properties, from which we drew this con- 
clufion, have no reality, as he thinks he has pro- 
ved ; if it have the powers of attraction and re- 
pulfion, and require only a certain configuration 
to make it think rationally, it will be impoffible 
to (hew any good reafon why the fame configu- 
ration may not make it act rationally and freely. 
If its reproach of folidity, inertnefs and fluggifh- 
nefs be wiped off; and if it be railed in our 
efteem to a nearer approach to the nature of 
what we call fpiritual and immaterial beings, 
why mould it hull be nothing but a mechanical 
being? Is its folidity, inertnefs and fluggifhnefs, 
to be firft removed to make it capable of think- 
ing, and then reflored in order to make it inca- 
pable of acting ? 

Thofe, therefore, who reafon juftly from this 
fyftem of materialifm will eafily perceive, that 
the doctrine of neceffity is fo far from being a 
direct inference, that it can receive no fupport 
from it. 

To conclude this Eflay : Extremes of all kinds 
ought to be avoided \ yet men are prone to run 

Vol. III. F f into 

450 ESSAY IV. [CHAP. 1%, 

Into them ; and, to ihun one extreme, we often 
run into the contrary. 

Of all extremes of opinion, none are more 
dangerous than thofe that exalt the powers of 
man too high, on the one hand, or fink them too 
low, on the other. 

By railing them too high, we feed pride and 
vain- glory, we lofe the fenfe of our dependence 
upon God, and engage in attempts beyond our 
abilities. By depreffing them too low, we cut 
the finews of action and of obligation, and are 
tempted to think, that, as we can do nothing, 
we have nothing to do, but to be carried paffive- 
ly along by the ftream of neceffity. 

Some good men, apprehending that, to kill 
pride and vain-glory, our active powers cannot 
be too much depreffed, have been led, by zeal 
for religion, to deprive'us of all active power. 

Other good men, by a like zeal, have been led 
to depreciate the human understanding, and to 
put out the light of nature and reafon, in order 
to exalt that of revelation. 

Thofe weapons which were taken up in fup- 
port of religion, are now employed to overturn 
it ; and what was, by fome, accounted the bul- 
wark of orthodoxy, is become the ltrong hold of 
atheifm and infidelity. 

Atheifls join hant*s with Theologians, in de- 
priving man of all active power, that they may 
deitroy all moral obligation, and all fenfe of 
right and wrong. They join hands with Theo r 



logians, in depreciating the human underftand- 
ing, that they may lead us into abfolute fcepti- 

God, in mercy to the human race, has made 
us of iuch a frame, that no fpeculative opinion 
whatfoever can root out the fenfe of guilt and 
demerit when we do wrong, nor the peace and 
joy of a good confcience when we do what is 
right. No fpeculative opinion can root out a re- 
gard to the tettimony of our fenfes, of our me- 
mory, and of our rational faculties. But we 
have reafon to be jealous of opinions which run 
counter to thofe natural fentiments of the human 
mind, and tend to make, though they never can 
eradicate them. 

There is little reafon to fear, that the conduct 
of men, with regard to the concerns of the pre- 
fent life, will ever be much affected, either by 
the doctrine of neceffity, or by fcepticifm. It 
were to be wifhed, that men's conduct, with re- 
gard to the concerns of another life, were in as 
little danger from thofe opinions. 

In the prefent Mate, we fee fome who zealouf- 
ly maintain the doctrine of neceffity, others who 
as zealoufly maintain that of liberty. One would 
be apt to think, that a practical belief of thefe 
contrary fyftems mould produce very different 
conduct in them that hold them ; yet we fee no 
fuch difference in the affairs of common life. 

The fatalift deliberates, and refolves, and 

plights his faith. He lays down a plan of con- 

F f 2 dutf, 


duct, and profecutes it with vigour and induftry. 
He exhorts and commands, and holds thofe to 
be anfwerable for their conduct to whom he 
hath committed any charge. He blames thofe 
that are falfe or unfaithful to him as other men 
do. He perceives dignity and worth in fome 
characters and actions, and in others demerit 
and turpitude. He refents injuries, and is grate- 
ful for good offices. 

If any man fhould plead the doctrine of ne- 
ceffity to exculpate murder, theft, or robbery, 
or even wilful negligence in the difcharge of his 
duty, his judge, though a fatalift, if he had com- 
mon fenfe, would laugh at fuch a plea, and 
would not allow it even to alleviate the crime. 

In all fuch cafes, he fees that it would be ab- 
furd not to act and to judge as thofe ought to do 
who believe themfelves and other men to be free 
agents, jult as the fccptic, to avoid abfurdity, 
mult, when he goes into the world, act and judge 
like other men who are not fceptics. 

If the fatalift be as little influenced by the 
opinion of necefiity in his moral and religious 
concerns, and in his expectations concerning an- 
other world, as he is in the common affairs of 
life, his fpecuiative opinion will probably do 
him little hurt. But, if he truft fo far to the 
doctrine of neceffity, as to indulge fioth and in- 
activity in his duty, and hope to exculpate him- 
felf to his Maker by that doctrine, let him con- 
fider whether he fuftains this excufe from his 



fervants and dependants, when they are negli- 
gent or unfaithful in what is committed to their 

Bifhop Butler, in his Analogy, has an excel- 
lent chapter upon the opinion of necejjity conjider- 
ed as influencing practice, which I think highly 
deferving the coniideration of thofe who are in- 
clined to that ooinion. 

F f 3 ESSAY 




Of the Firjl Principles of Morals. 

ORALS, like all other fciences, muft have 
firit principles, on which all moral reafon- 
ing is grounded. 

In every branch of knowledge where difputes 
have been raifed, it is ufeful to diftinguifh the 
rirft principles from the fuperftructure. They 
are the foundation on which the whole fabric of 
the fcience leans ; and whatever is not fupport- 
ed by this foundation can have no liability. 

In all rational belief, the thing believed is ei- 
ther itfelf a firft principle, or it is by juft reafon- 
ing deduced from firft principles. When men 
differ about deductions of reafoning, the appeal 
muft be made to the rules of reafoning, w r hich 
have been very unanimoufly fixed from the days 
of Aristotle. But when they differ about a 
nrfl principle, the appeal is made to another tri- 
bunal ; to that of common fenfe. 



How the genuine decifions of common fenfe 
may be diftinguifhed from the counterfeit, has 
been confidered in effay lixth, on the Intellec- 
tual Powers of Man, chapter fourth, to which 
the reader is referred. What I would here ob- 
ferve is, That as firft principles differ from de- 
ductions of reafoning in the nature of their evi- 
dence, and muft be tried by a different ftandard 
when they are called in queftion, it is of impor- 
tance to know to which of thefe two claifcs a 
truth which we would examine, belongs. When 
they are not difiinguifhed, men are apt to de- 
mand proof for every thing they think fit to de- 
ny : And when we attempt to prove by direct 
argument, what is really felf-evident, the rea- 
foning will always be inconclufive ;■ for it will 
either take for granted the thing to be proved, 
or fomething not more evident ; and fo, inftead 
of giving Itrength to the conclufion, will rather 
■ tempt thofe to doubt of it, who never did fo be- 

I propofe, therefore, in this chapter, to point- 
out fome of the firft principles of morals, with- 
out pretending to a complete enumeration. 

The principles I am to mention, relate either 
to virtue in general, or to the different particu- 
lar branches of virtue, or to the comparifon of 
virtues where they feem to interfere. 

1. There are fome things in human conduct, 
that merit approbation and praife, others that 
merit blame and punifhment \ and different de- 
F f 4 greed 

45 6 ESSAY v. [chap. I. 

grees either of approbation or of blame, are due 
to different actions. 

i. What is in no degree voluntary, can neither 
deferve moral approbation nor blame. 

3. What is done from unavoidable necefiity 
may be agreeable or difagreeable, ufeful or hurt- 
ful, but cannot be the object either of blame or 
of moral approbation. 

4. Men may be highly culpable in omitting 
what they ought to have done, as well as in do- 
ing what they ought not. 

5. We ought to ufe the beft means we can to 
be well informed of our duty, by ferious atten- 
tion to moral inftruction ; by obferving what 
we approve, and what we difapprove, in other 
men, whether our acquaintance, or thofe whofe 
actions are recorded in hiftory ; by reflecting of- 
ten, in a calm and difpailionate hour, on our 
own paft conduct, that we may difcern what 
was wrong, what was right, and what might 
have been better ; by deliberating coolly and 
impartially upon cur future conduct, as far as 
we can forefee the opportunities we may have 
of doing good, or the temptations to do wrong ; 
and by having this principle deeply fixed in our 
minds, that as moral excellence is the true worth 
and glory of a man, fo the knowledge of our du- 
ty is to every man, in every flation of life, the 
molt important of all knowledge. 

6. It ought to be cur mod ferious concern to 
do cur duty us far as we know it, and to fortify 



our minds againft every temptation to deviate 
from it; by maintaining a lively fenfe of the 
beauty of right conduct, and of its prefent and 
future reward, of the turpitude of vice, and of 
its bad confequences here and hereafter ; by ha- 
ving always in our eye the nobleft examples ; 
by the habit of fubjecting our paffions to the 
government of reafon ; by firm purpofes and re- 
iblutions with regard to our conducl ; by avoid- 
ing occaiions of temptation when we can ; and 
by imploring the aid of him who made us, in 
every hour of temptation. 

Thefe principles concerning virtue and vice 
in general, muft appear felf-evident to every 
man who hath a confcience, and who hath ta- 
ken pains to exercife this natural power of his 
mind. I proceed to others that are more parti- 

1. We ought to prefer a greater good, though 
more did ant, to a lefs ; and a lefs evil to a 

A regard to our own good, though we had no 
confcience, dictates this principle ; and we can- 
not help difapproving the man that acts contra- 
ry to it, as deferving to lofe the good which he 
wantonly threw away, and to fuffer the evil 
which he knowingly brought upon his own 

We obferved before, that the ancient mora- 
lifts, and many among the modern, have deduced 
the whole of morals from this principle, and that 


458 ESSAY v. [chap. i. 

when we make a right eftimate of goods and evils 
according to their degree, their dignity, their 
duration, and according as they are more or lefs 
in our power, it leads to the practice of every 
virtue : More directly, indeed, to the virtues of 
felf-government, to prudence, to temperance, 
and to fortitude ; and, though more indirectly, 
even to juftice, humanity, and all the focial vir- 
tues, when their influence upon our happinefs is 
well underltood. 

Though it be'not the nobleft principle of con- 
duct, it has this peculiar advantage, that its force 
is felt by the molt ignorant, and even by the 
moil abandoned. 

Let a man's moral judgment be ever fo little 
improved by exercife, or ever fo much corrupt- 
ed by bad habits, he cannot be indifferent to his 
own happinefs or mifery. When he is become 
infenfible to every nobler motive to right con- 
duct, he cannot be infenfible to this. And 
though to act from this motive folely may be 
called prudence rather than z-irtue, yet this pru- 
dence- defer ves fome regard upon its own ac- 
count, and much more as it is the friend and al- 
ly of virtue, and the enemy of all vice ; and as it 
gives a Favourable teilimony of virtue to thofe 
who are deaf to every other recommendation. 

If a man can be induced to do his duty even 
from a regard to his own happinefs, he will foon 
find reafon to love virtue for her own fake, and 
to act from motives lefs mercenary. 



I cannot therefore approve of thofe moralifts, 
who would banifh all perfuafives to virtue taken 
from the confideration of private good. In the 
prefent ftate of human nature thefe are not ufe- 
lefs to the belt, and they are the only means left 
of reclaiming the abandoned. 

1. As far as the intention of nature appears in 
the conftitution of man, we ought to comply with 
that intention, and to act agreeably to it. 

The Author of our being hath given us not 
only the power -of acting within a limited fphere, 
but various principles or fprings of action, of dif- 
ferent nature and dignity, to direct us in the ex- 
ercife of our active power. 

From the conftitution of every fpecies of the 
inferior animals, and efpecially from the active 
principles which nature has given them, we eafi- 
ly perceive the manner of life for which nature 
intended them ; and they uniformly act the part 
to which they are led by their conftitution, 
without any reflection upon it, or intention of 
obeying its dictates. Man only, of the inhabi- 
tants of this world, is made capable of obferving 
his own conftitution, what kind of life it is made 
for, and of acting according to that intention, or 
contrary to it. He only is capable of yielding 
an intentional obedience to the dictates of his 
nature, or of rebelling againft them. 

In treating of the principles of action in man, 
it has been lhewn, that as his natural inftincts 
and bodily appetites, are well adapted to the 


460 ESS AY V. [CHAP. I. 

prefervation of his natural life, and to the conti- 
nuance of the fpecies ; fo his natural defires, af- 
fections, and paffions, when uncorrupted by vi- 
cious habits, and under the government of the 
leading principles of reafon and confcience, are 
excellently fitted for the rational and focial life. 
Every vicious action fhews an excefs, or defect, 
or wrong direction of fome natural fpring of ac- 
tion, and therefore may, very juftly, be faid to 
be unnatural. Every virtuous action agrees with 
the uncorrupted principles of human nature. 

The Stoics defined virtue to be a life accord- 
ing to nature. Some of them more accurately, 
a life according to the nature of man, in fo far 
as it is fuperior to that of brutes. The life of a 
brute is according to the nature of the brute ; 
but it is neither virtuous nor vicious. The life 
of a moral agent cannot be according to his na- 
ture, unlefs it be virtuous. That confcience, 
which is in every man's breaft, is the law of 
God written in his heart, which he cannot dif- 
obey without acting unnaturally, and being fdi- 

The intention of nature, in the various active 
principles of man, in the defires of power, of 
knowledge, and of efieem, in the affection to 
children, to near relations, and to the communi- 
ties to which we belong, in gratitude, in com- 
panion, and even in refentment and emulation, 
is very obvious, and has been pointed out in 
treating of thofe principles. Nor is it lefs evi- 


dent, that reafon and confcience are given us to 
regulate the inferior principles, fo that they may 
confpire, in a regular and confiflent plan of life, 
in purfuit of fome worthy end. 

3. No man is born for himfelf only. Every 
man, therefore, ought to confider himfelf as a 
member of the common fociety of mankind, and 
of thofe fubordinate focieties to which he be- 
longs, fuch as family, friends, neighbourhood, 
country, and to do as much good as he can, and 
as little hurt to the focieties of which he is a 

This axiom leads directly to the practice of 
every focial virtue, and indirectly to the virtues 
of felf-government, by which only we can be 
qualified for difcharging the duty we owe to fo- 

4. In every cafe, we ought to act that part 
towards another, which we would judge to be 
right in him to acl toward us, if we were in his 
circumftances and he in ours ; or, more gene- 
rally, what we approve in others, that we ought 
to practife in like circumftances, and what we 
condemn in others we ought not to do. 

If there be any fuch thing as right and wrong 
in the conduct of moral agents, it mult be the 
fame to all in the fame circumftances. 

We ftand all in the fame relation to him who 
made us, and will call us to account for our con- 
duct ; for with him there is no refpect of per- 
fons. We ftand in the fame relation to one 


462 ESSAY V. [CHAP. I. 

another as members of the great community of 
mankind. The duties confequent upon the dif- 
ferent ranks and offices and relations of men are 
the fame to all in the fame circumftances. 

It is not want of judgment, but want of can- 
dour and impartiality, that hinders men from 
difcerning what they owe to others. ■ They are 
quickfighted enough in difcerning what is due 
to themfelves. When they are injured, or ill 
treated, they fee it, and feel refentment. It is 
the want of candour that makes men ufe one 
meafure for the duty they owe to others, and 
another meafure for the duty that others owe to 
them in like circumftances. That men ought to 
judge with candour, as in all other cafes, fo ef- 
pecially in what concerns their moral conduct, 
is furely felf-evident to every intelligent being. 
The man who takes offence when he is injured 
in his period, in his property, in his good name, 
pronounces judgment againfl himfelf if he act 
fo toward his neighbour. 

As the equity and obligation of this rule of 
conduct is felf evident to every man who hath a 
confcience ; fo it is, of all the rules of morality, 
the moft comprehenrive, and truly deferves the 
encomium given it by the higheft authority, that 
it is the law and the prophets. 

It comprehends every rule of juftice without 
exception. It comprehends all the relative du- 
ties, arifing either from the more permanent re- 
lations of parent and child, of matter and fer- 



vant, of magiftrate and fubjec~t, of hufband and 
wife, or from the more tranfient relations of rich 
and poor, of buyer and feller, of debtor and cre- 
ditor, of benefactor and beneficiary, of friend 
and enemy. It comprehends every duty of cha- 
rity and humanity, and even of courtefy and 
good manners. 

Nay, I think, that, without any force or {train- 
ing, it extends even to the duties of felf-govern- 
ment. For, as every man approves in others the 
virtues of prudence, temperance, felf-command 
and fortitude, he muft perceive, that what is 
right in others muft be right in himfelf in like 

To fum up all, he who acts invariably by this 
rule will never deviate from the path of his du- 
ty, but from an error of judgment. And, as he 
feels the obligation that he and all men are un- 
der to ufe the beft means in his power to have 
his judgment well-informed in matters of duty, 
his errors will only be fuch as are invincible. 

It may be obferved, that this axiom fuppofes 
a faculty in man by which he can diftinguifh 
right conduct from wrong. It fuppofes alfo, 
that, by this faculty, we eafily perceive the right 
and the wrong in other men that are indifferent 
to us ; but are very apt to be blinded by the 
partiality of felfifh paffions when the cafe con- 
cerns ourfelves. Every claim we have againlt 
others is apt to be magnified by felf-love, when 
viewed directly. A change of pcrfons removes 


4^4 ESSAY v. [chap. I. 

this prejudice, and brings the claim to appear in 
its juft magnitude. 

5. To every man who believes the exiftenee, 
the perfections, and the providence of God, the 
veneration and fubmiffion we owe to him is felf- 
evident. Right fentiments of the Deity and of 
his works, not only make the duty we owe to 
him obvious to every intelligent being, but like- 
wife add the authority of a divine law to every 
rule of right con duel. 

There is another clafs of axioms in morals, by 
which, when there feems to be an oppolition be- 
tween the actions that different virtues lead to, 
we determine to which the preference is due. 

Between the feveral virtues, as they are dif- 
pofitions of mind, or determinations of will to 
act according to a certain general rule, there can 
be no oppolition. They dwell together moft 
amicably, and give mutual aid and ornament, 
without the.poflibility of hoftility or oppolition, 
and, taken altogether, make one uniform and 
Confident rule of conduct. But, between parti- 
cular external actions, which different virtues 
would lead to, there may be an oppofition. 
Thus, the fame man may be in his heart, gene- 
rous, grateful and juft. Thefe difpofitions 
ftrengthen, but never can weaken one another. 
Yet it may happen, that an external action which 
generofity or gratitude folicits, juftice may for- 



That in all fuch cafes, unmerited generofity 
ihould yield to gratitude, and both to juftice, is 
felf-evident. Nor is it lefs fo, that unmerited 
beneficence to thofe who are at eafe fhould yield 
to compaflion to the miferable, and external acts 
of' piety to works of mercy, becaufe God loves 
mercy more than faerifiee. 

At the fame time, we perceive, that thofe acls 
of virtue which ought to yield in the cafe of a 
competition, have mod intriniic worth when 
there is v no competition. Thus, it is evident 
that there is more worth in pure and unmerited 
benevolence than in companion, more in com- 
panion than in gratitude, and more in gratitude 
than in juflice. 

I call ihe&jir/} principles, becaufe they appear 
to me to have in themielves an intuitive evi- 
dence which I cannot reiift. I find I can cx- 
prefs them in other words. I can illuftrate them 
by examples and authorities, and perhaps can 
deduce one of them from another; but I am 
not able to deduce them from other principles 
that are more evident. And I find the belt mo- 
ral reafonings of authors I am acquainted with, 
ancient and modern, Heathen and Chriftian, to 
be grounded upon one or more of them. 

The evidence of mathematical axioms is not 
difcerned till men come to a certain degree of 
maturity of underftanding. A boy muft have 
formed the general conception of quantity, and 
of more and lefs and equal, of fum and difference ; 

Vol, III. G g and 

466 ESSAY V. [CHAP. I. 

and he mull have been accuftomed to judge of 
thefe relations in matters of common life, be- 
fore he can perceive the evidence of the mathe- 
matical axiom, that equal quantities, added to 
equal quantities, make equal fums. 

In like manner, our moral judgment, or con- 
science, grows to maturity from an impercepti- 
ble feed, planted by our Creator. When we 
are capable of contemplating the actions of other 
men, or of reflecting upon our own calmly and 
difpaffionately, we begin to perceive in them 
the qualities of honeft and difhoneft, of hon6ur- 
able and bafe, of right and wrong, and to feel 
the fentiments of moral approbation and difap- 

Thefe fentiments are at firft feeble, eafily 
warped by pamons and prejudices, and apt to 
yield to authority. By ufe and time, the judg- 
ment, in morals as in other matters, gathers 
ftrength, and feels more vigour. We begin to 
diflinguifn the dictates of paffion from thofe of 
cool reafon, and to perceive, that it is not al- 
ways fafe to rely upon the judgment of others. 
By an impulfe of nature, we venture to judge 
for ourfelves, as we venture to walk by our- 

There is a ftrong analogy between the pro- 
grcfs of the body from infancy to maturity, and 
the progrefs of all the powers of the mind. 
This progreffion in both is the work of nature, 
and in both maybe greatly aided or hurt by 



proper education. It is natural to a man to be 
able to walk or run or leap ; but if his limbs 
had been kept in fetters from his birth, he would 
have none of thofe powers. It is no lefs natural 
to a man trained in fociety, and to) 
judge of his own actions and thofe of other men, 
to perceive a right and a wrong, an honourable 
and a bafe, in human conduct ; and to fuch a 
man, I think, the principles of morals I have 
above mentioned will appear felf- evident. Yet 
there may be individuals of the human fpecies" 
fo little accuflomed to think or judge of any 
thing, but of gratifying their animal appetites, 
as to have hardly any conception of right or 
wrong in conduct, or any moral judgment ; as 
there certainly are fome who have not the con- 
ceptions and the judgment neceffary to under- 
Hand the axioms of geometry. 

From the principles above mentioned, the 
whole fyflem of moral conduct follows fa eafily, 
and with fo little aid of reaibning, that every 
man of common underftanding, who willies to 
know his duty, may know it. The path of du- 
ty is a plain path which the upright in heart can 
rarely miitake. Such it mull be, fince every 
man is bound to walk in it. There are fome 
intricate cafes in morals which admit of difpu • 
tation ; but thefe feldom occur in practice j and, 
when they do, the learned difputant has no 
great advantage : For the unlearned man, who 
ufes the beft means in his power to know his 

G g 2 dnty. 

468 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 2. 

duty, and ads according to his knowledge, is 
inculpable in the fight of God and man. He 
may err, but he is not guilty of immorality. 


Of Syjlems of Morals. 

F the knowledge of our duty be fo level to the 
apprehenfion of all men, as has been repre- 
fented in the lad chapter, it may feem hardly to 
deferve the name of a fcience. It may feem 
that there is no need for instruction in morals. 

From what caufe then has it happened, that 
we have many large and learned fyftems of mo- 
ral philofophy, and fyftems of natural jurifpru- 
dence, or the law of nature and nations ; and 
that, in modern times, public profeffions have 
been inftituted in moil places of education for 
inftructing youth in thefe branches of know- 
ledge ? 

This event, I think, may be accounted for, 
and the utility of fuch fyftems and profeffions 
juftified, without fuppofing any difficulty or in- 
tricacy in the knowledge of our duty. 

I am far from thinking instruction in morals 
unneceffary. Men may, to the end of life, be 
ignorant of felf-evident truths. They may, to 
the end of life, entertain grofs abfurdities. Ex- 
perience Shews that this happens often in mat- 


t-ers that are indifferent. Much more may it 
happen in matters where intereft, paffion, preju- 
dice and fafhion, are fo apt to pervert the judg- 

The mod obvious truths are not perceived 
without fome ripenefs of judgment. For we fee, 
that children may be made to believe any thing, 
though ever fo abfurd. Our judgment of things 
is ripened, not by time only, but chiefly by 
being exercifed about things of the fame or of a 
fimilar kind. 

Judgment, even in things felf-evident, requires 
a clear, diilincl and fteady conception of the 
things about which we judge. Our conceptions 
are at firft obfeure and wavering. The habit 
of attending to them is necefiary to make 
them diflinct. and fleady ; and this habit re- 
quires an exertion of mind to which many of 
our animal principles are unfriendly. The love 
of truth calls for it ; but its Hill voice is often 
drowned by the louder call of fome paffion, or 
Ave are hindered from liftening to it by lazinefs 
and defultorinefs. Thus men often remain 
through life ignorant of things which they need- 
ed but to open their eyes to fee, and which they 
would have feen if their attention had been turn- 
ed to them. 

The moil knowing derive the greateft part of 

their knowledge, even in things obvious, from 

inftruct-icn and information, and from being 

G g $ taught 

473 ESSAY V, [CHAP. 2. 

taught to exercife their natural faculties, which 
without inftruction, would lie dormant. 

I am very apt to think, that, if a man could 
be reared from infancy, without any fociety of 
his fellow-creatures, he would hardly ever fhevv 
any fign, either of moral judgment, or of the 
power of reafoning. His own actions would be 
directed by his animal appetites and paffions, 
without cool reflection, and he would have no 
accefs to improve, by obferving the conduct of 
other beings like himfelf. 

The power of vegetation in the feed of a 
plant, without heat and moifture, would for ever 
lie dormant. The rational and moral powers of 
man would perhaps lie dormant without inftruc- 
tion and example. Yet thefe powers are a part, 
and the nobleft part, of his conilitution ; as the 
power of vegetation is of the feed. 

Qur firft moral conceptions are probably got 
by attending coolly to the conducl: of others, 
and obferving what moves our approbation, what 
our indignation. Thefe fentiments fpring from 
our moral faculty as naturally as the fenfations 
of fweet and bitter from the faculty of tafte. 
They have their natural objedls. But moft hu- 
man actions are of a mixed nature, and have va- 
rious colours, according as they are viewed on 
different fides. Prejudice againft, or in favour 
of the perfon, is apt to warp our opinion. It 
requires attention and candour to diftinguifh 
the good from the ill, and, without favour or 



prejudice, to form a clear and impartial judg- 
ment. In this we may be greatly aided by in- 
ft ruction. 

He muft be very ignorant of human nature, 
who does not perceive that the feed of virtue in 
the mind of man, like that of a tender plant in 
an unkindly foil, requires care and culture in 
the firft period of life, as well as our own exer- 
tion when we come to maturity. 

If the irregularities of paffion and appetite be 
timely checked, and good habits planted ; if 
we be excited by good examples, and bad ex- 
amples be (hewn in their proper colour ; if the 
attention be prudently directed to the precepts 
of wifdom and virtue, as the mind is capable of 
receiving them ; a man thus trained will rarely 
be at a lofs to diftinguifh good from ill in his 
own conduct, without the labour of reafonins*. 

The bulk of mankind have but little of this 
culture in the proper feafon ; and what they 
have is often unikilfully applied ; by which 
means bad habits gather ftrcngtb, and falfe no- 
tions of pleafure, of honour, and of intereft, oc- 
cupy the mind. They give little attention to 
what is right and honefl. Confcience is feldom 
confulted, and fo little exercifecl, that its deci- 
iions are weak and wavering. Although, there- 
fore, to a ripe underflanding, free from preju- 
dice, and accu Homed to judge of the morality 
of actions, mod truths in morals will appear felf- 
evident, it does not follow that moral inftruc- 
G g 4 tion 

47? ESSAY V. [chap. 2, 

tjon is unnecefTary in the firft part of life, or 
that it may not be very profitable in its more 
advanced period. 

The hiftory of pail ages fhews that nations, 
highly civilized and greatly enlightened in ma- 
ny arts and fciences, may, for ages, not only hold 
the groiTeft abfurdities with regard to the Deity 
and his woriliip, but with regard to the duty 
we owe to our fellow-men, particularly to chil- 
dren, to fervants, to ftrangers, to enemies, and to 
thole who differ from us in religious opinions. 

Such corruptions in religion, and in morals, 
had fpread fo wide among mankind, and were 
io confirmed by cuftora, as to require a light 
from heaven to correct them. Revelation was 
not intended to fuperfede, but to aid the ufe of 
our natural faculties ; and I doubt not, but the 
attention given to moral truths, in fuch fyfxems 
as we have mentioned, has contributed much to 
correct the errors and prejudices of former ages, 
and may continue to have the fame good effect 
in time to come. 

It needs not feem ftrange, that fyftems of mo- 
rals may Ave 11 to great magnitude, if we cond- 
der that, although the general principles be few 
and iimple, their application extends to every 
part of human conduct, in every condition, eve- 
ry relation, and every tranfaction of life. They 
are the rule of life to the magiftrate and to the 
fubjecl, to the mailer and to the fervant, to the 
parent and to^he child, to the fellow-citizen and 



to the alien, to the friend and to the enemy, to 
the buyer and to the feller, to the borrower and 
to the lender. Every human creature is fubject 
to their authority in his actions and words, and 
even in his thoughts. They may, in this re- 
fpect, be compared to the laws of motion in the 
natural world, which, though few and fimple, 
ferve to regulate an infinite variety of operations 
throughout the univerfe. 

And as the beauty of the laws of motion is 
difplayed in the mod fir iking manner, when we 
trace them through all the variety of their ef- 
fects ; fo the divine beauty and fanctity of the 
principles of morals, appear mofl auguft when 
we take a comprehenfive view of their applica- 
tion to every condition and relation, and to every 
tranfaction of human fociety. 

This is, or ought to be, the defign of fyliems 
of morals. They may be made more or lefs ex- 
teniive, having no limits fixed by nature, but 
the wide circle of human tranfactions. When 
the principles are applied to thefe in detail, the 
detail is pleafant and profitable. It requires no 
profound reafoning, (excepting, perhaps, in a 
few difputable points). It admits of the mofl 
agreeable ilhiftration from examples and autho- 
rities ; it ferves to exerciie, and thereby to 
ftrengthen moral judgment. And one who has 
given much attention to the duty of man, in all 
the various relations and circumftances of life, 


474 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 2. 

will probably be more enlightened in his own 
duty, and more able to enlighten others. 

The nrft writers in morals, we are acquaint- 
ed with, delivered their moral inftructions, not 
in fyftems, but in fhort unconne&ed fentences, 
or aphorifms. They faw no need for deduc- 
tions of reafoning, becaufe the truths they deli- 
vered could not but be admitted by the candid 
and attentive. 

Subfequent writers, to improve the way of 
treating this fubjed, gave method and arrange- 
ment to moral truths, by reducing them under 
certain divifions and fubdivifions, as parts of one 
whole. By this means the whole is more ealily 
comprehended and remembered, and from this 
arrangement gets the name of a fyftem and of a 

A fyftem of morals is not like a fyftem of geo- 
metry, where the fubfequent parts derive their 
evidence from the preceding, and one chain of 
reafoning is carried on from the beginning ; fo 
that, if the arrangement is changed, the chain is 
broken, and the evidence is loft. It refembles 
more a fyftem of botany, or mineralogy, where 
the fubfequent parts depend not for their evi- 
dence upon the preceding, and the arrangement 
is made to facilitate apprehenfion and memory, 
and not to give evidence. 

Morals have been methodifed in different 
ways. The ancients commonly arranged them 
under the four cardinal virtues of prudence, 



temperance, fortitude, and juftice. Chriftian 
writers, I think more properly, under the three 
heads of the duty we owe to God, to ourfelves, 
and to our neighbour. One divifion may be 
more comprehenfive, or more natural, than ano- 
ther ; but the truths arranged are the fame, and 
their evidence the fame in all. 

I fhall only farther obferve, with regard to 
fyftems of morals, that they have been made 
more voluminous, and more intricate, partly by 
mixing political queflions with morals, which 
I think improper, becaufe they belong to a dif- 
ferent fcience, and are grounded on different 
principles ; partly by making what is common- 
ly, but I think improperly, called the Theory of 
Morals, a part of the fyftem. 

By the theory of morals is meant a juft ac- 
count of the ftructure of our moral powers ; 
that is, of thofe powers of the mind by which 
we have our moral conceptions, and diftinguifh 
right from wrong in human actions. This, in- 
deed, is an intricate fubject, and there have 
been various theories and much controversy a- 
bout it in ancient and in modern times. But it 
has little connection with the knowledge of our 
duty ; and thofe who differ mod in the theory 
of our moral powers, agree in the practical rules 
of morals which they dictate. 

As a man may be a good judge of colours, and 
of the other vifible qualities of objects, without 
rmv knowledge of the anatomy of the eye, and 


476 £ S S A Y V. [CHAP. 2. 

of the theory of virion ; fo a man may have 
a very clear and comprehenfive knowledge of 
what is right and what is wrong in human con- 
duct, who never fhidied the ftruclure of our mo- 
ral powers. 

A good ear in mtific may be much improved 
by attention and practice in that art ; but ve- 
ry little by ftudying the anatomy of the ear, and 
the theory of found. In order to acquire a good 
eye or a good ear in the arts that require them, 
the theory of vifion and the theory of found, 
are by no means neceffary, and indeed of very 
little ufe. Of as little neceffity or ufe is what 
we call the theory of morals, in order to im- 
prove our moral judgment. 

I mean not to depreciate this branch of know- 
ledge. It is a very important part of the philo- 
ibphy of the human mind, and ought to be con- 
fidered as fuch, but not as any part of morals. 
By the name we give to it, and by the cuitom 
of making it a part of every fyflem of morals, 
men may be led into this grofs miftake, which I 
wifh to obviate, That in order to underftand his 
duty, a man mufl needs be a philofopher and a 




Of Syjiems of Natural Jurifprudence. 

SYSTEMS of natural jurifprudence, of the 
rights of peace and war, or of the law of 
nature and nations, are a modern invention, 
which foon acquired fuch reputation, as gave 
occafion to many public eftablimments for teach- 
ing it along with the other fciences. It has lb 
clofe a relation to morals, that it may anfwer the 
purpofe of a fyftem of morals, and is commonly 
put in the place of it, as far, at leaft, as concerns 
our duty to our fellow-men. They differ in the 
name and form, but agree in fubftance. This 
will appear from a flight attention to the nature 
of both. 

The direct intention of morals is to teach the 
duty of men : that of natural jurifprudence, to 
teach the rights of men. Right and duty are 
things very different, and have even a kind of 
oppofition ; yet they are fo related, that the one 
cannot even be conceived without the other ; 
and he that underftands the one mud under- 
Hand the other. 

They have the fame relation which credit has 
to debt. As all credit fuppofes an equivalent 
debt •, fo all right fuppofes a correfponding du- 
ty. There can be no credit in one party with- 
out an equivalent debt in another party \ and 


47 8 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 3. 

there can be no right in one party, without a 
corresponding duty in another party. The fum 
of credit fhews the fum of debt ; and the fum 
of mens rights fhews, in like manner, the fum of 
their duty to one another. 

The word right has a very different meaning, 
according as it is applied to actions or to perfons. 
A right action is an action agreeable to cur du- 
ty. But when we fpeak of the rights of men, 
the word has a very different and a more artifi- 
cial meaning. It is a term of art in law, and 
fignifies all that a man may lawfully do, all that 
he may lawfully poffefs and ufe, and all that he 
may lawfully claim of any other perfon. 

This comprehenfive meaning of the word 
right, and of the Latin word jus, which corre- 
fponds tp it, though long adopted into common 
language, is too artificial to be the birth of com- 
mon language. It is a term of art, contrived by 
Civilians when the civil law became a profeffion. 

The whole end and object of law is to protect 
the fubjects in all that they may lawfully do, or 
poffefs, or demand. This threefold object of 
law, Civilians have comprehended under the 
word jus or right, which they define, Facultas 
illiquid agendi, vel pojjidendi, vel ah alio confe- 
quendi : A lawful claim to do any thing, to pof- 
fefs any thing, or to demand fome prestation 
from fome other perfon. The firft of thefe may 
be called the right of liberty, the fecond that of 
property, which is alfo called a real rights the 



third is called perfonal ?ight, becaufe it refpects 
fome particular perfon or perfons of whom the 
preftation may be demanded. 

We can be at no lofs to perceive the duties 
correfponding to the feveral kinds of rights. 
What I have a right to do, it is the duty of all 
men not to hinder me from doing. What is my 
property or real right, no man ought to take 
from me \ or to molefl me in the ufe and enjoy- 
ment of it. And what I have a right to demand 
of any man, it is his duty to perform. Between 
the right, on the one hand, and the duty, on the 
other, there is not only a necelfary connection, 
but, in reality, they are only different expref- 
fions of the fame meaning ; juft as it is the fame 
thing to fay I am your debtor, and to fay you 
are my creditor ; or as it is the fame thing to 
fay I am your father, and to fay you are my fon. 
Thus we fee, that there is fuch a correfpond- 
ence between the rights of men and the duties 
of men, that the one points out the other ; and a 
fyftem of the one may be fubflituted for a fyftem. 
of the other. 

But here an objection occurs. It may be faid, 
That although every right implies a duty, yet 
every duty does not imply a right. Thus, it 
may be my duty to do a humane or kind office 
to a man who has no claim of right to it ; and 
therefore a fyftem of the rights of men, though 
it teach all the duties of ftrict juftice, yet it 
leaves out all the duties of charity and humanity, 


480 z s s a y v. [chap. 3, 

without which the fyftem of morals mufl be ve- 
ry lame. 

In anfvver to this objection, it may be obfer- 
ved, That, as there is a ftrict notion of juftice, in 
which it is diftinguifhed from humanity and 
charity, fo there is a more exteniive fignification 
of it, in which it includes thofe virtues. The 
ancient moralifts, both Greek and Roman, un- 
der the cardinal virtue of juftice, included bene- 
ficence ; and, in this exteniive fenfe, it is often 
ufed in common language. The like may be 
faid of right, which, in a fenfe not uncommon, 
is extended to every proper claim of humanity 
and charity, as well as to the claims of ftrict ju- 
ftice. But, as it is proper to diilinguifh thefe 
two kinds of claims by different names, writers 
in natural jurifprudence have given the name of 
perfect rights to the claims of ft rict juftice, and 
that of imperfect rights to the claims of charity 
and humanity. Thus, all the duties of humani- 
ty have imperfect rights correfponding to them, 
as thofe of ftrict juftice have perfect: rights. 

Another objection may be, That there is Hill- 
a clafs of duties to which no right, perfect or 
imperfect, correfponds. 

We are bound in duty to pay due refpect, not 
only to what is truly the right of another, but 
to what, through ignorance or miftake, we be- 
lieve to be his right. Thus, if my neighbour is 
poffeffed of a horfe which he ftole, and to which 
he has no right \ while I believe the horfe to be 



really his, and am ignorant of the theft, it is my 
duty to jDay the fame refpect to this conceived 
right' as if it were real. Here, then, is a moral 
obligation on one party, without any correfpond- 
ing right on the other. 

To fupply this defect in the fyftem of rights, 
fo as to make right and duty correfpond in eve- 
ry inftance, writers in jurifprudence have had 
recourfe to fomething like what is called a fic- 
tion of law. They give the name of right to the 
claim which even the thief hath to the goods he 
has ftolen, while the theft is unknown, and to 
all limilar claims grounded oh the ignorance of 
miflake of the parties concerned. And to diftin- 
guifh this kind of right from genuine rights, 
perfect or imperfect, they call it an external 

Thus it appears, That although a fyftem of 
the perfect rights of men, cr the rights of ftrict 
juftice, would be a lame fubftitute for a fyftem 
of human duty ; yet when we add to it the im- 
perfect and the external rights, it comprehends 
the whole duty we owe to our fellow-men. 

But it may be afked, Why mould men be 
taught their duty in this indirect, way, by re- 
flection, as it were, from the rights of other 
men ? 

Perhaps it may be thought, that this indirect 
way may be more agreeable to the pride of man., 
as we fee that men of rank like better to hear of 
obligations of honour than of obligations of du- 

Vol. III. H h ty 

482 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 3, 

ty (although the dictates of true honour and o£ 
duty be the fame) for this reafon, that honour 
puts a man in mind of what he owes to himfelf, 
whereas duty is a more humiliating idea. For 
a like reafon, men may attend more willingly to 
their rights, which put them in mind of their 
dignity, than to their duties, which fuggeli 
their dependence. And we fee that men may 
give great attention to their rights who give but 
little to their duty. 

Whatever truth there may be in this, I be- 
lieve better reafons can be given why fyftems of 
natural jurifprudence have been contrived and 
put in the place of fyftems of morals. 

Syftems of civil law were invented many ages 
before we had any fyftem of natural jurifpru- 
dence ; and the former feem to have fuggefted 
the idea of the latter. 

Such is the weaknefs of human underHanding^ 
that no large body of knowledge can be eafily 
apprehended and remembered, unlefs it be ar- 
ranged and methodifed, that is, reduced into a 
fyftem. When the laws of the Roman people 
were multiplied to a great degree, and the ftudy 
of them became an honourable and lucrative 
profeffion, it became neceflary that they fhould 
be methodifed into a fyftem. And the moft na- 
tural and obvious way of methodifing law was 
found to be according to the divifions and fub- 
divifions of mens rights, which it is the inten- 
tion of law to protect, 



The ftudy of law produced not only fyftems 
of law, but a language proper for expreffing 
them. Every art has its terms of art, for ex- 
preffing the conceptions that belong to it ; and 
the Civilian muft have terms for expreffing ac- 
curately the divifions and fubdivifions of rights, 
and the various ways whereby they may be ac- 
quired, transferred, or extinguished, in the vari- 
ous tranfact ions of civil fociety. He muft have 
terms accurately defined, for the various crimes 
by which mens rights are violated, not to fpeak 
of the terms which exprefs the different forms of 
actions at law, and the various fteps of the pro- 
cedure of judicatories. 

Thofe who have been bred to any profeflion 
are very prone to ufe the terms of their profef- 
lion in fpeaking or writing on fubjeols that have 
any analogy to it. And they may do fo with 
advantage, as terms of art are commonly more 
precife in their fignification, and better defined, 
than the words of common language. To fuch 
perfons it is alio very natural to model and ar- 
range other fubjects, as far as their nature ad- 
mits, into a method fimilar to that of the fyftem 
which fills their minds. 

It might, therefore, be expected, that a Civi- 
lian, intending to give a detailed fyftem of mo- 
rals, would ufe many of the terms of civil law, 
and mould it, as far as it can be done, into the 
form of a fyftem of law, or of the rights of man- 

H h 2 The 

484 £ S S A Y V. [CHAP. 3', 

The neceffafy and clofe relation of right to 
duty, which we before obferved, jufcified this: 
And moral duty had long been confidered as a 
law of nature ; a law, not wrote on tables of 
Hone or brafs, but on the heart of man ; a law of 
greater antiquity and higher authority than the 
laws of particular flates ; a law which is binding 
upon all men of all nations, and therefore is cal- 
led by Cicero the law of n autre and of nations. 

The idea of a fy Item of this law was worthy 
of the genius of the immortal Hugo Grotius, 
and he was the fifft who executed it in fuch a 
manner, as to draw the attention of the learned 
in all the European nations ; and to give occa- 
ilon to feveral princes and fiates to eftablifh pub- 
lic profeffions for the teaching of this law. 

The multitude of commentators and annota- 
tors upon this work of Grotius, and the public 
eftablifhments to which it gave occafion, are Ef- 
ficient vouchers of its merit. 

It is, indeed, a work fo well defigned, and fo 
ikilfully executed ; fo free from the fcholailic 
jargon which infected the learned at that time, 
fo much addreffed to the common fenfe and mo- 
ral judgment of mankind, and fo agreeably illu- 
ftrated by examples from ancient hiftory, and 
authorities from the fentiments of ancient au- 
thors, Heathen and Chriftian, that it muft al- 
ways be efteemed as the capital work of a great 
genius upon a molt important fubjecl. 



The utility of a juft fyftem of natural jurif- 
firudence appears, i. As it is a fyftem of the mo- 
ral duty we owe to men, which, by the aid they 
have taken from the terms and divifions of the 
civil law, has been given more in detail and 
more fyftematically by writers in natural jurif- 
prudence than it was formerly, i, As it is the 
belt preparation for the fludy of law, being, as 
it were, cad in the mould, and ufing and ex- 
plaining many of the terms of the civil law, on 
which the law of moil of the European nations 
is grounded. 3. It is of ufe to lawyers, who 
ought to make their laws as agreeable as poffible 
to the laws of nature. And as laws made by 
men, like all human works, muft be imperfect, 
it points out the errors and imperfections of hu- 
man laws. 4. To judges and interpreters of the 
law it is cf ufe, becaufe that interpretation ought 
to be preferred which is founded in the law of 
nature. 5. It is of ufe in civil controverfies be- 
tween ftates, or between individuals who have 
no common fuperior. In fuch controverfies, the 
appeal muft be made to the law of nature ; and 
the ftandard fyftems of it, particularly that of 
Grotius, have great authority. And, 6. to fay 
no more upon this point, It is of great ufe to fo- 
vereigns and ftates who are above all human 
laws, to be folemnly admonifhed of the conduct 
they are bound to obferve to their own fubjects, 
to the fubjecb of other ftates, and to one ano- 
ther, in peace and in war. The better and the 
Hh 3 more 

^86 ESSAY v. [chap. 


more generally the law of nature is underftood, 
the greater difhonour, in public eftimation, will 
follow every violation of it. 

Some authors have imagined, that fyftems of 
natural jurifprudence ought to be confined to the 
perfect rights of men, becaufe the duties which 
correfpond to the imperfect rights, the duties of 
charity and humanity, cannot be enforced by hu- 
man laws, but muft be left to the judgment and 
confeience of men, free from compulfion. But 
the fyftems which have had the greateft applaufe 
of the public, have not followed this plan, and, 
I conceive, for good reafons. Firji, Becaufe a 
iyftem of perfect rights could by no means ferve 
the purpofe of a fyfiem of morals, which furely 
is an important purpofe. Secondly, Becaufe, in 
many cafes, it is hardly poffible to fix the pre- 
cife limit between juftice and humanity, be- 
tween perfect: and imperfect right. Like the 
colours in a prifmatic image, they run into each 
other, fo that the bed eye cannot fix the precife 
boundary between them. Thirdly, As wife le- 
giflators and magistrates ought to have it as their 
end to make the citizens good, as well as j lift; 
we find, in all civilized nations, laws that are in- 
tended to encourage the duties of humanity. 
Where human laws cannot enforce them by pu- 
nifhments, they may encourage them by re- 
wards. Of this the wifefl legiflators have given 
examples ; and how far this branch of legiflation 
may be carried, no man can forefee. 



The fubftance of the four following chapters 
was wrote long ago, and read in a literary focie- 
ty, with a view to juftify fome points of morals 
from metaphyfical objections urged againfl them 
in the writings of David Hume, Efq. If they 
anfwer that end, and, at the fame time, ferve to 
illuftrate the account I have given of our moral 
powers, it is hoped that the reader will not think 
them improperly placed here ; and that he will 
forgive fome repetitions, and perhaps anachron- 
ifms, occafioned by their being wrote at differ- 
ent times, and on different occafions. 


Whether an Atlion deferring Moral Approbation? 
mufi he done with the belief of its being morally 

THERE is no part of philofophy more fubtile 
and intricate than that which is called The 
Theory of Morals. Nor is there any more plain 
and level to the appreheniion of man than the 
practical part of morals. 

In the former, the Epicurean, the Peripatetic 
and the Stoic, had each his different fyftem of 
old ; and almoft every modern author of reputa- 
tion has a fyftem of his own. At the fame time, 
there is no branch of human knowledge in 
v'hich there is {q general an agreement among 
H h 4 ancients 


ancients and moderns, learned and unlearned, as 
in the practical rules of morals. 

From this djfcord in the theory, and harmony 
in the practical part, we may judge, that the 
rules of morality Hand upon another and a firm- 
er foundation than the theory. And of this it is 
eafy to perceive the reafon. 

For, in order to know what is right and what 
is wrong in human conduct, we need only liften 
to the dictates of our confcience, when the mind 
is calm and unruffled, or attend to the judgment 
we form of others in like circumftances. But, 
to judge of the various theories of morals, we 
muft be able to analyze and diffect, as it were, 
the active powers of the human mind, and efpe- 
cially to analyze accurately that confcience or 
moral power by which we difcern right from 

The confcience may be compared to the eye 
in this, as in many other refpects. The learned 
and the unlearned fee objects with equal diftinct- 
nefs. The former have no title to dictate to the 
latter, as far as the eye is judge, nor is there any 
difagreement about fuch matters. But, to diifect 
the eye, and to explain the theory of vifion, is a 
difficult point, wherein the mod Ikilful have dif- 

From this remarkable difparity between our 
decisions in the theory of morals and in the rules 
of morality, we may, I think, draw this conclu- 
sion, That wherever we find any difagreement 



between the practical rules of morality, which 
have been received in all ages, and the principles 
of any of the theories advanced upon this fub- 
jedt, the practical rules ought to be the ftandard 
by which the theory is to be corrected, and that 
it is both unfafe and unphilofophical to warp the 
practical rules, in order to make them tally with 
a favourite theory. 

The queftion to be considered in this chapter 
belongs to the practical .part of morals, and 
therefore is capable of a more eafy and more cer- 
tain determination. And, if it be determined in 
the affirmative, I conceive that it may ferve as a 
tcuchflone to try fome celebrated theories which 
are inconfiftent with that determination, and 
which have led the theories to oppofe it by very 
fubtile metaphyfical arguments. 

Every queftion about what is or is not the 
proper object of moral approbation, belongs to 
practical morals, and fuch is the queftion now 
under coniideration : Whether actions deferving 
moral approbation muft be done with the belief 
of their being morally good ? Or, Whether an 
action, done without any regard to duty or to 
the dictates of conscience, can be entitled to mo- 
ral approbation ? 

In every action of a moral agent, his confci- 
ence is either altogether filent, or it pronounces 
the action to be good, or bad, or indifferent. 
This, I think, is a complete enumeration. 'If it 
be perfectly filent, the action muft be very tri- 

49^ ESSAY V. f CHAP. 4, 

fling, or appear fo. For confcience, in thofe 
who have exercifed it, is a very pragmatical fa- 
culty, and meddles with every part of our con- 
duct, whether we delire its counfel or not. And 
what a man does in perfect fimplicity, without 
the leaft fufpicion of its being bad, his heart can- 
not condemn him for, nor will he that knows 
the heart condemn him. If there was any pre- 
vious culpable negligence or inattention which 
led him to a wrong Judgment, or hindered his 
forming a right one, tfoat I do not exculpate. I 
only confider the actiem done, and the difpofi- 
tion with which it was done, without its previ- 
ous circumftances. And in this there appears 
nothing that merits difapprobation. As little 
can it merit any degree of moral approbation, 
becaufe there was neither good nor ill intended. 
And the fame may be faid when confcience pro- 
nounces the action to be indifferent. 

If, in the Jecond place, I do what my confci- 
ence pronounces to be bad or dubious, I am guil- 
ty to myfelf, and juftly deferve the difapproba- 
tion of others. Nor am I lefs guilty in this cafe, 
though what I judged to be bad fhould happen 
to be good or indifferent. I did it believing it 
to be bad, and this is an immorality. 

Lajily, If I do what my confcience pronounces 
to be right and my duty, either I have fome re- 
gard to duty, or I have none. The laft is not 
iuppofable ; for I believe there is no man fo 
abandoned, but that he does what he believes to 



be his duty, with more aflurance and alacrity 
upon that account. The more weight the rec- 
titude of the action has in determining me to do 
it, the more I approve of my own conduct. And 
if my wordly intereft, my appetites or inclina- 
tions, draw me ftrongly the contrary way, my 
following the dictates of my confcience, in oppo- 
sition to thefe motives, adds to the moral worth 
of the action. 

When a man acts from an erroneous judgment, 
if his error be invincible, all agree that he is in- 
culpable : But if his error be owing to fome 
previous negligence or inattention, there feems 
to be fome difference among moralifts. This 
difference, however, is only feeming, and not 
real. For wherein lies the fault in this cafe ? 
It muft be granted by all, that the fault lies in 
this, and folely in this, that he was not at due 
pains to have his judgment well informed. 
Thofe moralifts, therefore, who confider the ac- 
tion and the previous conduct that led to it as 
one whole, find fomething to blame in the 
whole ; and they do fo moll juftly. But thofe 
who take this whole to pieces, and confider what 
is blameable and what is right in each part, find 
all that is blameable in what preceded this wrong 
judgment, and nothing but what is approvable 
in what followed it. 

Let us fuppofe, for inftance, that a man be- 
lieves that God has indifpenfably required him 
;o obferve a very rigorous fall in Lent ; and that, 


492 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 4, 

from a regard to this fuppofed Divine command, 
he falls in fuch manner as is not only a great 
mortification to his appetite, but even hurtful to 
his health. 

His fuperflitious opinion may be the effect of 
a culpable negligence, for which he can by no 
means be juftified. Let him, therefore, bear all 
the blame upon this account that he deferves. 
But now, having this opinion fixed in his mind, 
fhall he act according to it or againfl it ? Sure- 
ly we cannot hefitate a moment in this cafe. It 
is evident, that in following the light of his 
judgment, he acts the part of a good and pious 
man; whereas, in acting contrary to his judg- 
ment, he would be guilty of wilful difobedience 
to his Maker. 

If my fervant, by miftaking my orders, does 
the contrary of what I commanded, believing, 
at the fame time, that he obeys my orders, there 
may be fome fault in his miftake, but to charge 
him w T ith the crime of difobedience, would be 
inhuman and unjufl. 

Thefe determinations appear to me to have 
intuitive evidence, no lefs than that of mathe- 
matical axioms. A man who is come to years 
of underftanding, and who has exercifed his fa- 
culties in judging of right and wrong, fees their 
truth . as he fees day-light. Metaphyseal argu- 
ments brought againfl them have the fame effect 
as when brought againfl the evidence of fenfe ; 
they may puzzle and confound, but they do not 



convince. It appears evident, therefore, that 
thofe actions only can truly be called virtuous, 
or deferving of moral approbation, which the 
agent believed to be right, and to which he was 
influenced, more or lefs, by that belief. 

If it mould be objected, That this principle 
makes it to be of no confequence to a man's mo- 
rals, what his opinions may be, providing he acts 
agreeably to them, the aniwer is eafy. 

Morality requires, not only that a man mould 
act according to his judgment, but that he mould 
ufe the belt means in his power that his judg- 
ment be according to truth. If he fail in either 
of thefe points, he is worthy of blame ; but, if 
he fail in neither, I fee not wherein he can be 

When a man muft act;, and has no longer time 
t'o deliberate, he ought to act. according" to the 
light of his confcience, even when he is in an er- 
ror. But, when he has time to deliberate, he 
ought furely to ufe all the means in his power to 
be rightly informed. When he has done fo, he 
may itill be in an error j but it is an invincible 
error, and cannot juftly be imputed to him as a 

A fccond objection is, That we immediately 
approve of benevolence, gratitude, and other 
primary virtues, without inquiring whether they 
are praclifed from a perfuafion that they are our 
duty. And the laws of God place the fum of 
virtue in loving God and our neighbour, without 


494 ESSAY v. [chap. 4, 

any provifion that we do it from a perfuafion that 
we ought to do fo. 

The anfwer to this objection is, That the love 
of God, the love of our neighbour, juftice, grati- 
tude, and other primary virtues, are, by the con- 
ftitution of human nature, necefTarily accompa- 
nied with a conviction of their being morally 
good. We may therefore fafely prefume, that 
thefe things are never disjoined, and that every 
man who practices thefe virtues does it with a 
good confcience. In judging of mens conduct, 
we do not fuppofe things which cannot happen, 
nor do the laws of God give decifions upon im- 
poffible cafes, as they muft have done, if they 
fuppofed the cafe of a man who thought it con- 
trary to his duty to love God or to love man- 

But if we wifh to know how the laws of God 
determine the point in queftion, we ought to ob- 
ferve their decifion with regard to fuch actions 
as may appear good to one man and ill to ano- 
ther. And here the decifions of fcripture are 
clear : Let every man be perjuaded in his own 
mind. He that doubteth is condemned if be eat, 
becaufe be eateth not of faith, for whatfoever is not. 
of faith is fin. To him that efleemeth any thing to 
be unclean, it is unclean. The fcripture often 
placeth the fum of virtue in living in all good 
confcience, in acting fo that our hearts condemn us 



The laft objection I fhall mention is a rneta- 
phyfical one urged by Mr Hume. 

It is a favourite point in his iyftem of morals,. 
That juftice is not a natural but an artificial vir- 
tue. To prove this, he has exerted the whole 
ftrength of his reafon and eloquence. And a? 
the principle we are confidering flood in his way, 
he takes pains to refute it. 

" Suppofe," fays he, " a perfon to have lent me 
" a fum of money, on condition that it be refto- 
11 red in a few days. After the expiration of 
" the term he demands the fum. I afk, what 
" reafon or motive have I to reftore the money ? 
" It will perhaps be faid, That my regard to ]u- 
tl flice, and abhorrence of villany and knavery, 
" are fufficient reafons for me." And this, he 
acknowledges, would be a fatis factory anfwer to 
a man in a civilized flate, and when trained up 
according to a certain difcipline and education, 
11 But in his rude and more natural condition," 1 
fays he, " if you are pleafed to call fuch a con- 
" dition natural, this anfwer would be rejected 
" as perfectly unintelligible and fophiflical. 

" For wherein confifts this honefty and ju- 
" flice ? Not furely in the external action. It 
" muft, therefore, confift in the motive from 
" which the external action is derived. This 
" motive can never be a regard to the honefty 
" of the action. For i't is a plain fallacy to fay, 
" That a virtuous motive is requiiile to render 
" an action honed, and, at the fame time, that 

" a. 

49 6 ESSAY Vo [cfiAP. 4. 

" a regard to the honefty is the motive to the 
" action. We can never have a regard to the 
" virtue of an action, unlefs the action be ante- 
" cedently virtuous." 

And, in another place, " To fuppofe that the 
" mere regard to the virtue of the action is that 
" which rendered it virtuous, is to reafon in a 
*' circle. An action muft be virtuous, before 
" we can have a regard to its virtue. Some vir- 
" tuous motive, therefore, mull be antecedent 
" to that regard. Nor is this merely a metaphy- 
iC iical fubtilty," &c. Treatife of Hum. Nature, 
book 3. part 2. feci. 1. 

I am not to confider at this time, how this 
reafoning is applied to fupport the author's opi- 
nion, That juftice is not a natural but an artifi- 
cial virtue. I coniider it only as far as it oppofe^ 
the principle I have been en'deavouring to efta- 
blifh, Thatp to render an action truly virtuous, 
the agent muft have fome regard to its rectitude. 
And I conceive the whole force of the reafoning 
amounts to this : 

When we judge an action to be good or bad. 
it muft have been fo in its own nature antece- 
dent to that judgment, otherwife the judgment 
is erroneous. If, therefore, the action 'be good 
in its nature, the judgment of the agent cannot 
make it bad, nor can his judgment make it good,, 
if, in its nature, it be bad. For this would be 
to afcribe to our judgment a ftrange magical 
power to transform the nature of things, and to 



fay, that my judging a thing to be what it is 
not, makes it really to be what I erroneouily 
judge it to be. This, I think, is the objection 
in its full ftrength. And, in anfwer to it, 

Firjl, If we could not loofe this metaphyfical 
knot, I think we might fairly and honeftly cut 
it, becaufe it fixes an abfurdity upon the clearefl 
and mod indifputable principles of morals and 
of common fenfe. For I appeal to any man 
whether there be any principle of morality, or 
any principle of common fenfe, more clear and 
indifputable than that which we juft now quot- 
ed from the Apoftle Paul, That although a 
thing be not unclean in itfelf, yet to him that 
efteemeth it to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 
But the metaphyfical argument makes this ab- 
furd. For, fays the metaphyfician, If the thing 
was not unclean in itfelf, you judged wrong in 
efteeming it to be unclean ; and what can be 
more abfurd, than that your efteeming a thing 
to be what it is not, fhould make it what you er- 
roneoufly efteem it to be ? 

Let us try the edge of this argument in ano- 
ther inftance. Nothing is more evident, than 
that an action does not merit the name of bene- 
volent, unlefs it be done from a belief that it 
tends to promote the good of our neighbour. 
But this is abfurd, fays the metaphyfician. For, 
if it be not a benevolent action in itfelf, your 
belief of its tendency cannot change its nature,, 
It is abfurd, that your erroneous belief mould 

Vol. III. I i make 

498 ESSAY v. [chap. 4. 

make the action to be what you believe it to be. 
Nothing is more evident, than that a man who 
tells the truth, believing it to be a lie, is guilty 
of falfehood ; but the metaphyfieian would make 
this to be abfurd. 

In a word, if there be any ftrength in this ar- 
gument, it would follow, That a man might be s 
in the higheft degree, virtuous, without the lean: 
regard to virtue ; that he might be very bene- 
volent, without ever intending to do a good of- 
fice; very malicious, without ever intending any 
hurt ; very revengeful, without ever intending 
to retaliate an injury \ very grateful, without 
ever intending to return a benefit ; and a man 
of Uriel; veracity, with an intention to lie. We 
might, therefore, reject this reafoning, as repug- 
nant to felf- evident truths, though we were not 
able to point out the fallacy of it. 

2. But let us try, in the Jecond place, whether 
the fallacy of this argument may not be difco- 

We afcribe moral goodnefs to actions confi- 
dered abfcractly, without any relation to the 
agent. We likevvife afcribe moral goodnefs to 
an agent on account of an action he has done ; 
we call it a good action, though, in this cafe, the 
goodnefs is properly in the man, and is only by 
a figure afcribed to the action. Now, it is to be 
confidered, whether moral goodnefs, when ap- 
plied to an action confidered abftractly, has the 
fame meaning as when we apply it to a man on 



account of that action ; or whether we do not 
unawares change the meaning of the word, ac- 
cording as we apply it to the one or to the 

The action, confidered abftractly, has neither 
understanding nor will ; it is not accountable, 
nor can it be under any moral 'obligation. But 
all thefe things are effential to that moral good- 
nefs which belongs to a man ; for, if a man had 
not underftanding and will, he could have no 
moral goodnefs. Hence it follows necefTarily, 
that the moral goodnefs which we afcribe to an 
action coniidered abftractly, and that which we 
afcribe to a perfon for doing that action, are not 
the fame. The meaning of the word is changed 
when it is applied to thefe different fubjects. 

This will be more evident, when we confider 
what is meant by the moral goodnefs which we 
afcribe to a man for doing an action, and what 
by the goodnefs which belongs to the action 
coniidered abstractly. A good action in a man 
is that in which he applied his intellectual 
powers properly, in order to judge what he 
ought to do, and acted according to his belt 
judgment. This is all that can be required of 
a moral agent ; and in this his moral goodnefs, 
in any good action, conlifts. But is this the 
goodnefs which we afcribe to an action coniider- 
ed abftractly ? No, furely. For the action, con- 
iidered abftractly, is neither endowed with judg- 
ment nor with active power ; and, therefore, 
I i 2 can 

500 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 4, 

can have none of that goodnefs which we afcribe 
to the man for doing it. 

But what do we mean by goodnefs in an action 
eonfidered abftractly ? To me it appears to lie 
in this, and in this only, That it is an action 
which ought to be done by thofe who have the 
power and opportunity, and the capacity of per- 
ceiving their obligation to do it. I would glad- 
ly know of any man, what other moral goodnefs 
can be in an action confidered abftractly. And 
this goodnefs is inherent in its nature, and infepa- 
rable from it. No opinion or judgment of an 
agent can in the leafl alter its nature. 

Suppofe the action to be that of relieving an 
innocent perfon out of great diftrefs. This fure- 
ly has all the moral goodnefs that an action con- 
iidered abftractly can have. Yet it is evident, 
that an agent, in relieving a perfon in diftrefs, 
may have no moral goodnefs, may have great 
merit, or may have great demerit. 

Suppofe, firft, That mice cut the cords which 
bound;the diftreffed perfon, and fo bring him re- 
lief. "Is there moral goodnefs in this act of the 
mice ? 

Suppofe, fecondly % That a man malicioufly re- 
lieves the diftreffed perfon, in order to plunge 
him into greater diftrefs. In this action there is 
furely no moral goodnefs, but much malice and 

If, in the lajl place, we fuppofe a perfon, from 
real fympathy and humanity, to bring relief to 



the diftreffed perfon, with confiderable expence 
or danger to himfelf ; here is an action of real 
worth, which every heart approves and every 
tongue praifes. But wherein lies the worth ? 
Not in the action confidered by itfelf; which was 
common to all the three, but in the man who, 
on this occafion, acted the part which became a 
good man. He did what his heart approved, 
and therefore he is approved by God and man. 

Upon the whole, if we diftinguifh between 
that goodnefs which may be afcribed to an action 
confidered by itfelf, and that goodnefs which we 
afcribe to a man when he puts it in execution, 
we mall find a key to this metaphyseal lock. 
We admit, that the goodnefs of an action, con- 
fidered abflractly, can have no dependence upon 
the opinion or belief of an agent, any more than 
the truth of a propofition depends upon our be- 
lieving it to be true. But, when a man exerts 
his active power well or ill, there is a moral 
goodnefs or turpitude which we figuratively im- 
pute to the action, but which is truly and pro- 
perly imputable to the man only ; and this good- 
nefs or turpitude depends very much upon the 
intention of the agent, and the opinion he had 
of his action. 

This difiinction has been undentood in all 
ages by thofe who gave any attention to morals, 
though it has been varioufiy exprefTed. The 
Greek moralifts gave the name of x&Swov to an 
action good in itfelf; fuch an action might be 
I i 3 done 

502 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 4, 

done by the molt worthlefs. But an action done 
with a right intention, which implies real worth 
in the agent, they called xxToftupx. The di- 
ftinction is explained by Cicero in his Offices. 
He calls the firit officium medium, and the fecond 
officium perfeclum, or reclum. In the fcholaftic 
ages, an action good in itfelf was faid to be ma- 
terially good, and an action done with a right 
intention was called formally good. This laib 
way of expreffing the diftinction is {till familiar 
among Theologians ; but Mr Hume feems not 
to have attended to it, or to have thought it to 
be words without any meaning. 

Mr Hume, in the fection already quoted, tells 
us with great affurance, " In fhort, it may be 
*' eftabliihed as an undoubted maxim, that no 
" action can be virtuous or morally good, unlefs 
" there be in human nature fome motive to 
" produce it diftinct from the fenfe of its mo- 
" rality." And upon this maxim he founds 
many of his reafonings on the fubject of morals. 

Whether it be confident with Mr Hume's 
own fyflem, that an action may be produced 
merely from the fenfe of its morality, without 
any motive of agreeablenefs or utility, I mall 
not now inquire. But, if it be true, and I think 
it evident to every man of common underftand- 
ing, that a judge or an arbiter acts the moil vir- 
tuous part when his fentence is produced by no 
other motive but a regard to juftice and a good 
conference, nay, when all other motives diftinct 



from this are on the other fide : If this I fay be 
true, then that undoubted maxim of Mr Hume 
muft be falfe, and all the concluiions built upon 
it muft fall to the ground. 

From the principle I have endeavoured to ef- 
tablifh, I think fome confequences may be drawn 
with regard to the theory of morals. 

Firjl, If there be no virtue without the belief 
that what we do is right, it follows, That a mo- 
ral faculty, that is, a power of difcerning moral 
goodnefs and turpitude in human conduit, is ef- 
fential to every being capable of virtue or vice. 
A being who has no more conception of moral 
goodnefs and bafenefs, of right and wrong, than 
a blind man hath of colours, can have no regard 
to it in his conduct, and therefore can neither 
be virtuous nor vicious. 

He may have qualities that are agreeable or 
difagreeable, ufeful or hurtful, fo may a plant 
or a machine. And we fometimes ufe the word 
virtue in fuch a latitude, as to fignify any agree- 
able or ufeful quality, as when we fpeak of the 
virtues of plants. But we are now fpeaking of 
virtue in the ftrict and proper fenfe, as it figni- 
fies that quality in a man which is the object oi 
moral approbation. 

This virtue a man could not have, if he had 
not a power of difcerning a right and a wrong 
in human conduct, and of being influenced by 
that difcernment. For in fo far only he is vir- 
tuous as he is guided in his conduit by that part 

1 1 4 of . 

504 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 4. 

of his conftitution. Brutes do not appear to 
have any fuch power, and therefore are not mo- 
ral or accountable agents. They are capable of 
culture and difcipline, but not of virtuous of 
criminal conduct. Even human creatures, in 
infancy and non-age, are not moral agents, be- 
caufe their moral faculty is not yet unfolded. 
Thefe fentiments are fupported by the common 
fenfe of mankind, which has always determined, 
that neither brutes nor infants can be indicted 
for crimes. 

It is of fmall coniequence what name we give 
to this moral power of the human mind ; but it 
is fo important a part of our conftitution, as to 
deferve an appropriated name. The name of 
confcience, as it is the moll common, feems to me 
as proper as any that has been given it. I find 
no fault with the name moral fenfe, although I 
conceive this name has given occafion to fome 
miftakes concerning the nature of our moral 
power. Modern Philofophers have conceived of 
the external fenfes as having no other office but 
to give us certain fenfations, or Ample concep- 
tions, which we could not have without them. 
And this notion has been applied to the moral 
fenfe. But it feem9 to me a miftaken notion in 
both. By the fenfe of feeing, I not only have 
the conception of the different colours, but I 
perceive one body to be of this colour, another 
of that. In like manner, by my moral fenfe, I 
not only have the conceptions of right and wrong 



in conduct., but I perceive this conduct to be 
right, that to be wrong, and that indifferent. 
All our fenfes are judging faculties, fo alfo is 
confcience. Nor is this power only a judge of 
our own actions and thofe of others, it is like- 
wife a principle of a&ion in all good men ; and 
fo far only can our conduct, be denominated vir- 
tuous, as it is influenced by this principle. 

Kfecond confequence from the principle laid 
down in this chapter is, That the formal nature 
and effence of that virtue which is the object, of 
moral approbation conlifts neither in a prudent 
profecution of our private intereft, nor in bene- 
volent affections towards others, nor in qualities 
ufeful or agreeable to ourfelves or to others, nor 
in fympathizing with the paflions and affections 
of others, and in attuning our own conduct, to 
the tone of other mens paflions ; but it confifls 
in living in all good confcience, that is, in ufing 
the befl means in our power to know our duty, 
and acting accordingly. 

Prudence is a virtue, benevolence is a virtue, 
fortitude is a virtue ; but the effence and formal 
nature of virtue muft lie in fomething that is 
common to all thefe, and to every other virtue. 
And this I conceive can be nothing elfe but the 
rectitude of fuch conduct, and turpitude of the 
contrary, which is difcerned by a good man. 
And fo far only he is virtuous as he purfues the 
former and avoids the latter. ; 


506 essay v. [chap. 5. 


Whether Juftice he a Natural or an Artificial 

R Hume's philofophy concerning morals 
was firft prefented to the world in the 
third volume of his Treatife of Human Nature? 
in the year 1740 ; afterwards in his Enquiry con- 
cerning the Principles of Morals, which was firft 
publifhed by itfelf, and then in feveral editions 
of his EJfays and Treatifes. 

In thefe two works on morals the fyftem is 
the fame. A more popular arrangement, great 
embellifhment, and the omiffion of fome meta- 
phyfical reafonings, have given a preference in 
the public efteem to the laft ; but I find neither 
any new principles in it, nor any new arguments 
in fupport of the fyftem common to both. 

In this fyftem, the proper object of moral ap- 
probation is not actions or any voluntary exer- 
tion, but qualities of mind ; that is, natural af- 
fections or paflions, which are involuntary, a 
part of the conftitution of the man, and common 
to us with many brute-animals. When we 
praife or blame any voluntary a&ion, it is only 
coniidered as a fign of the natural affection 
from which it flows, and from which all its me- 
rit or demerit is derived. 



Moral approbation or difapprobation is not an 
a& of the judgment, which, like all ads of judg- 
ment, mull be true or falfe, it is only a certain 
feeling, which, from the conftitution of human 
nature, arifes upon contemplating certain cha- 
racters or qualities of mind coolly and imparti- 

This feeling, when agreeable, is moral ap- 
probation ; when difagreeable, difapprobation. 
The qualities of mind which produce this agree- 
able feeling are the moral virtues, and thofe that 
produce the difagreeable, the vices. 

Thefe preliminaries being granted, the que- 
ftion about the foundation of morals is reduced 
to a fimple queftion of fact, viz. What are the 
qualities of mind which produce, in the difinte- 
refted obferver, the feeling of approbation, or 
the contrary feeling ? 

In anfwer to this queftion, the author endea- 
vours to prove, by a very copious induction, 
That all perfonal merit, all virtue, all that is 
the object of moral approbation, confifts in the 
qualities of mind which are agreeable or ufeful 
to the perfon who pofTefTes them, or to others. 

The duke and the utile is the whole fum of 
merit in every character, in every quality of 
mind, and in every action of life. There is no 
room left for that honejlum which Cicero thus 
defines, Honejlum igitur id intelligimus, quod tale 
ejl y ut detracla omni utilitate, fine ullis pr emits 
fruclibufve, per fe ipjum pojjit jure laudari. 


508 essay v. [chap. 5, 

Among the ancient moralifts, the Epicureans 
were the only feet who denied that there is any 
fuch thing as honeftum, or moral worth, diftinct 
from pleafure. In this Mr Hume's fyftem agrees 
with theirs. For the addition of utility to plea- 
fure, as a foundation of morals, makes only a 
verbal, but no real difference. What is ufeful 
only has no value in itfelf, but derives all its me- 
rit from the end for which it is ufeful. That 
end, in this fyftem, is agreeablenefs or pleai ire. 
So that, in both fyftems, pleafure is the only 
end, the only thing that is good in itfelf, and 
defirable for its own fake ; and virtue derives 
all its merit from its tendency to produce plea- 

Agreeablenefs and utility are not moral con- 
ceptions, nor have they any connection with 
morality. What a man does, merely becaufe it 
is agreeable, or ufeful to procure what is agree- 
able, is not virtue. Therefore the Epicurean 
fyftem was juftly thought by Cicero, and the 
beft moralifts among the ancients, to fubvert 
morality, and to fubftitute another principle in 
its room ; and this fyftem is liable to the fame 

In one thing, however, it differs remarkably 
from that of Epicurus. It allows, that there 
are difinterefted affections in human nature ; 
that the love of children and relations, friend- 
Ihip, gratitude, companion and humanity, are 
not, as Epicurus maintained, different modifi- 


cations of felf-love, but limple and original parts 
of the human conftitution \ that when intereft, 
or envy, or revenge, pervert not our difpofition, 
we are inclined, from natural philanthropy, to 
defire, and to be pleafed with the happinefs of 
the human kind. 

All this, in oppofition to the Epicurean fy- 
ftem, Mr Hume maintains with great ftrength 
of reafon and eloquence, and, in this refpect, his 
lyftem is more liberal and difinterefted than 
that of the Greek Philofopher. According to 
Epicurus, virtue is whatever is agreeable to 
ourfelves. According to Mr Hume, every quality 
of mind that is agreeable or ufeful to ourfelves 
or to others. 

This theory of the nature of virtue, it mull 
be acknowledged, enlarges greatly the catalogue 
of moral virtues, by bringing into that catalogue 
every quality of mind that is ufeful or agreeable. 
Nor does there appear any good reafon why the 
ufeful and agreeable qualities of body and of 
fortune, as well as thofe of the mind, mould not 
have a place among moral virtues in this fyftem. 
They have the effence of virtue ; that is, agree- 
ablenefs and utility, why then mould they not 
have the name ? 

But, to compenfate this addition to the moral 
virtues, one clafs of them fecms to be greatly 
degraded and deprived of all intrinfic merit. 
The ufeful virtues, as was above obferved, are 
only miniftering fervants of the agreeable, and 


510 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5. 

purveyors for them ; they mufl, therefore, be fo 
far inferior in dignity, as hardly to deferve the 
fame name. 

Mr Hume, however, gives the name of virtue 
to both ; and to diflinguifh them, calls the a- 
greeable qualities natural virtues, and the ufe- 
ful artificial. 

The natural virtues are thofe natural affections 
of the human conftitution which give immediate 
pleafure in their exercife. Such are all the bene- 
volent affections. Nature difpofes to them, and 
from their own nature they are agreeable, both 
when we exercife them ourfelves, and when we 
contemplate their exercife in others. 

The artificial virtues are fuch as are efteemed 
folely on account of their utility, either to pro- 
mote the good of fociety, as juflice, fidelity, 
honour, veracity, allegiance, chaflity ; or on ac- 
count of their utility to the polfeiTor, as indu- 
ftry, difcretion, frugality, fecrecy, order, perfe- 
verance, forethought, judgment, and others, of 
which, he fays, many pages could not contain 
the catalogue. 

This general view of Mr Hume's fyflem con- 
cerning the foundation of morals, feemed necef- 
fary, in order to underftand diflinctly the mean- 
ing of that principle of his, which is to be the 
fubject of this chapter, and on which he has be- 
llowed much labour, to wit, that juflice is not a 
natural but an artificial virtue. 



This fyftem of the foundation of virtue is fo 
contradictory in many of its eflential points to 
the account we have before given of the active 
powers of human nature, that, if the one be 
true, the other muft be falfe. 

If God has given to man a power which we 
call confcience, the moral faculty, the fenfe of du- 
ty, by which, when he comes to years of under- 
ftanding, he perceives certain things that depend 
on his will to be his duty, and other things to 
be bafe and unworthy ; if the notion of duty be 
a fimple conception, of its own kind, and of a 
different nature from the conceptions of utility 
and agreeablenefs, of intereft or reputation ; if 
this moral faculty be the prerogative of man, 
and no veftige of it be found in brute-animals ; 
if it be given us by God to regulate all our ani- 
mal affections and paflions ; if to be governed by 
it be the glory of man and the image of God in 
his foul, and to difregard its dictates be his dif- 
honour and depravity : I fay, if thefe things be 
fo, to feek the foundation of morality in the af- 
fections which we have in common with the 
brutes, is to feek the living among the dead, and 
to change the glory of man, and the image of 
God in his foul, into the fimilitude of an ox 
that eateth grafs. 

If virtue and vice be a matter of choice, they 
muft confift in voluntary actions, or in fixed 
purpofes of acting according to a certain rule 


512 ASSAY. V.- [CHAP. 5. 

when there is opportunity, and not in qualities 
of mind which are involuntary. . 

It is true, that every virtue is both agreeable 
and ufeful in the higher! degree ; and that eve- 
ry quality that is agreeable or ufeful, has a me- 
rit upon that account. But virtue has a merit 
peculiar to itfelf, a merit which does not arife 
from its being ufeful or agreeable, but from its 
being virtue. This merit is difcerned by the 
fame faculty by which we difcern it to be vir- 
tue, and by no other. 

We give the name of ejleem both to the regard 
we have for things ufeful and agreeable, and to 
the regard we have for virtue ; but thefe are dif- 
ferent kinds of efteem. I efteem a man for his 
ingenuity and learning. I efteem him for his 
moral worth. The found of ejleem in both 
thefe fpeeches is the fame, but its meaning is ve- 
ry different. 

Good breeding is a very amiable quality ; 
and even if I knew that the man had no motive 
to it but its pleafure and utility to himfelf and 
others, I mould like it ftill, but 1 would not in 
that cafe call it a moral virtue. 

A dog has a tender concern for her puppies ; 
fo has a man, for his children. The natural af- 
fection is the fame in both, and is amiable in 
both. But why do we impute moral virtue to 
the man on account of this concern, and not to 
the dog ? The reafon furely is, That, in the 
man, the natural affection is accompanied with 



a fenfe of duty, but, in the dog, it is not. The 
fame thing may be faid of all the kind affections 
common to us with the brutes, They are ami- 
able qualities, but they are not moral virtues. 

What has been faid relates to Mr Hume's 
fyflem in general. We are now to confider his 
notion of the particular virtue of juftice, that its 
merit confifts wholly in its utility to fociety. 

That juftice is highly ufeful and neceffary in 
fociety, and, on that account, ought to be loved 
and efteemed by all that love mankind, will rea- 
dily be granted. And as juftice is a focial vir- 
tue, it is true alfo, that there could be no exer- 
cifeofit, and perhaps we fuould have no con- 
ception of it, without fociety. But this is equal- 
ly true of the natural affections of benevolence, 
gratitude, friendfhip and companion, which Mr 
Hume makes to be the natural virtues. 

It may be granted to Mr Hume, that men 
have no conception of the virtue of juftice till 
they have lived fome time in fociety. It is 
purely a moral conception, and our moral con- 
ceptions and moral judgments are not born with 
us. They grow up by degrees, as our reafon 
does. Nor do I pretend to know how early, or 
in what order, we acquire the conception of the 
feveral virtues. The conception of juftice fup- 
pofes fome exercife of the moral faculty, v/hich, 
being the nobleft part of the human conftitution, 
and that to which all its other parts are fubfer- 
vient, appears lateft. 

Vol. ITf. K k It 

514 essay v. [chap. 5, 

It may likewife be granted, that there is no 
animal affection in human nature that prompts 
us immediately to acts of juftice, as fuch. We 
have natural affections of the animal kind, which, 
immediately prompt us to acts of kindnefs ; but 
none, that I know, that has the fame relation 
to juftice. The very conception of juftice fup- 
pofes a moral faculty ; but our natural kind af- 
fections do not ; otherwife we muft allow that 
brutes have this faculty. 

What I maintain is, Jirji, That when men 
come to the exercife of their moral faculty, they 
perceive a turpitude in injuftice, as they do in 
other crimes, and confequently an obligation to 
juftice, abftracling from the confideration of its 
utility. And, fecondly, That as foon as men 
have any rational conception of a favour, and of 
an injury, they muft have the conception of ju- 
ftice, and perceive its obligation diftinct from its 

The firft of thefe points hardly admits of any 
other proof, but an appeal to the fentiments of 
every honeft man, and every man of honour, 
Whether his indignation is not immediately in- 
flamed againft an atrocious act of villany, with- 
out the cool confideration of its diftant confe- 
quences upon the good of fociety ? 

We might appeal even to robbers and pirates, 
Whether they have not had great ftruggles 
with their confcience, when they firft refolved 
to break through all the rules of juftice? And 



whether, in a folitary and ferious hour, they 
have not frequently felt the pangs of guilt? They 
have very often confefled this at a time when all 
difguife is laid alide. 

The common good of fociety, though a plea- 
ling object to all men, when prefented to their 
view, hardly ever enters into the thoughts of 
the far greateft part of mankind ; and, if a re- 
gard to it were the fole motive to juitice, the 
number of honeft men mud be fmall indeed. It 
would be confined to the higher ranks, who, by 
their education, or by their office, are led to 
make the public good an object. ; but that it is 
fo confined, I believe no man will venture to af- 

The temptations to injufiice are itrongeit in 
the loweit clafs of men ; and if nature had pro- 
vided no motive to oppofe thofe temptations-, 
but a fenfe of public good, there would not be 
found an honeft man in that clafs. 

To all men that are not greatly corrupted, 
injuftice, as well as cruelty and ingratitude, is 
an object of disapprobation on its own account. 
There is a voice within us that proclaims it to 
be bate, unworthy, and deferring of punifhment. 

That there is, in all ingenuous natures, an an- 
tipathy to roguery and treachery, a reluctance 
to the thoughts of villany and bafenefs, we have 
the teftiraony of Mr Hume himfelf ; who, as I 
doubt not but he felt it, has expreiTed it very 
ftrongly in the conclufion to his Enquiry, and 
K. k • % acknow- 

516 e s s a y v. [chap. 5. 

acknowledged that, in fome cafes, without this 
reluctance and antipathy to difhonefty, a fenfible 
knave would find no fufficient motive from pu- 
blic good to be honefl. 

I mall give the pafTage at large from the En- 
quiry concerning the Principles of Morals, fec- 
tion 9. near the end. 

" Treating vice with the greater! candour, 
and making it all poffible conceffions, we 
mull acknowledge that there is not, in any 
inftance, the fmalleft pretext for giving it the 
preference above virtue, with a view to felf- 
intereft ; except, perhaps, in the cafe of jn- 
ftice, where a man, taking things in a certain 
light, may often feem to be a lofer by his in- 
tegrity. And though it is allowed that, 
without a regard to property, no fociety could 
fubfift ; yet, according to the imperfect way 
in which human affairs are conducted, a fen- 
iible knave, in particular incidents, may think, 
that an adl of iniquity or infidelity will make 
a conliderable addition to his fortune, with- 
out cauling any conliderable breach in the fa- 
cial union and confederacy. That honefiy is 
the bejl policy, may be a good general rule, 
but it is liable to many exceptions : And he, 
it may perhaps be thought, conducts himfelf 
with moft wifdom, who obferves the general 
rule, and takes advantage of all the excep- 



** I muft confefs that, if a man think that this 
*' reafoning much requires an anfwer, it will be a 
" little difficult to find any which will to him ap- 
" pear fatisfactory and convincing. If his heart 
" rebel not againft fuch pernicious maxims, if he 
" feel no reluctance to the thoughts of villany 
" and bafenefs, he has indeed loft a considerable 
" motive to virtue, and we may expect, that his 
u practice will be anfwerable to his fpeculation. 
u But in all ingenuous natures, the antipathy to 
" treachery and roguery is too ftrong to be 
" counterbalanced by any views of profit or pe- 
'* cuniary advantage. Inward peace of mind, 
i( confcioufnefs of integrity, a fatisfaclory re- 
" view of our own conducl: ; thefe are circum- 
" fiances very requifite to happinefs, and will 
*' be cheriflied and cultivated by every honefl 
" man who feels the importance of them. " 

The reafoning of the fenfible knave in this 
paffage, feems to me to be juftly founded upon 
the principles of the Enquiry and of the Trea- 
tife of Human Nature, and therefore it is no 
wonder, that the Author mould find it a little 
difficult to give any anfwer which would appear 
iatisfactory and convincing to fuch a man. To 
counterbalance this reafoning, he puts in the 
other fcale a reluctance, an antipathy, a rebel- 
lion of the heart againft fuch pernicious maxims, 
which is felt by ingenuous natures. 

Let us confider a little the force of Mr 

Hume's anfwer to this fenfible knave, who rea- 

K k 3 fons 

£l8 ESSAY v. [chap. 5< 

fons upon his own principles. I think it is ei- 
ther an acknowledgment, that there is a natural 
judgment of confcience in man, that injuftice 
and treachery is a bafe and unworthy practice, 
which is the point I would eftablifh ; or it has 
no force to convince either the knave or an ho- 
neft man. 

A clear and intuitive judgment, refulting from 
the constitution of human nature, is fufficient 
to overbalance a train of fubtile reafoning on 
the other fide. Thus, the teftimony of our Ferifes 
is fufficient to overbalance all the fubtile argu- 
ments brought againft their teftimony. And, 
if there be a like teftimony of confcience in fa- 
vour of honefly, all the fubtile reafoning of the 
knave againft it ought to be rejected without 
examination, as fallacious and fophiltical, be- 
caufe it concludes againft a felf-evident prin- 
ciple •, juft as we reject the fubtile reafoning of 
the metaphyfician againft the evidence of fenfe. 

If, therefore, the reluctance, the antipathy, the 
rebellion of the heart againft injuftice, which 
Mr Hume fets againft tke reafoning of the 
knave, include in their meaning a natural in- 
tuitive judgment of confcience, that injuftice is 
bafe and unworthy, the reafoning of the knave 
is convincingly anfwered ;, but the principle, 
That juftice is an artificial virtue ', approved folely 
for its utility, is given up. 

If, on the other hand, the antipathy, reluc- 
tance and rebellion cf heart, imply no judg- 

. mem, 


-ment, but barely an uneafy feeling, and that not 
natural, but acquired and artificial, the anfwer 
is indeed very agreeable to the principles of the 
Enquiry, but has no force to convince the knave, 
or any other man. 

The knave is here fuppofed by Mr Hume to 
have no fuch feelings, and therefore the anfwer 
does not touch his cafe in the leaffc, but leaves 
him in the full poffeffion of his reafoning. And 
ingenuous natures, who have thefe feelings, are 
left to deliberate whether they will yield to ac- 
quired and artificial feelings, in oppofition to 
rules of conduct, which, to their belt judgment, 
appear wife and prudent. 

The fecond thing I propofed to mew was, 
That, as foon as men have any rational concep- 
tion of a favour and of an injury, they mufl 
have the conception of juftice, and perceive its 

The power with which the Author of nature 
hath endowed us, may be employed either to do 
good to our fallow-men, or to hurt them. 
When we employ our power to promote the 
good and happincfs of others, this is a benefit 
or favour; when we employ it to hurt them, it 
is an injury, juftice fills up the middle be- 
tween thefe two. It is fuch a conduct as does 
no injury to others ; but it does not imply the 
doing them any favour. 

The notions old. favour and of an injury, ap- 
pear as early in the mind of man as any rational 
K k 4 notion 

520 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5„ 

notion whatever. They are difcovered, not by 
language only, but by certain affections of mind, 
of which they are the natural objects. A fa- 
vour naturally produces gratitude. An injury 
done to ourfelves produces refentment ; and 
even when done to another, it produces indigna- 

I take it for granted that gratitude and refent-- 
ment are no lefs natural to the human mind 
than hunger and third ; and that thofe affections 
are no lefs naturally excited by their proper ob- 
jects and occaiions than thefe appetites. 

It is no lefs evident, that the proper and for- 
mal object of gratitude is a perfon who has done 
us a favour ; that of refentment, a perfon who 
has done us an injury. 

Before the ufe of reafon, the distinction be- 
tween a favour and an agreeable office is not 
perceived. Every action of another perfon 
which gives prefent pleafure produces love and 
good will towards the agent. Every action that 
gives pain or uneaiinefs produces refentment, 
This is common to man before the ufe of reafori, 
and to the more fagacious brutes ; and it fhews 
no conception of juftice in either. 

But, as we grow up to the ufe of reafon, the 
notion, both of a favour and of an injury, grows 
more diftinct and better denned. It is not 
enough that a good, office be done ; it mult be 
done from good will, and with a good intention, 



.other wife it is no favour, nor does it produce 

I have heard of a phylician who gave fpiders 
in a medicine to a droplical patient, with an in- 
tention to poifon him, and that this medicine 
cured the patient, contrary to the intention of 
the phylician. Surely no gratitude, but refent- 
ment, was due by the patient, when he knew 
the real Hate of the cafe. It is evident to every 
man, that a benefit arifing from the action of 
another, either without or againft his intention, 
is not a motive to gratitude ; that is, is no fa- 

Another thing implied in the nature of a fa- 
vour is, that it be not due. A man may fave 
my credit by paying what he owes me. In 
this cafe, what he does tends to my benefit, and 
perhaps is done with that intention ; but it is 
not a favour, it is no more than he was bound 
to do. 

If a fervant do his work, and receive his wa- 
ges, there is no favour done on either part, nor 
any object of gratitude; becaufe, though each 
party has benefited the other, yet neither has 
done more than he was bound to do. 

What I infer from this is, That the concep- 
tion of a favour in every man come to years of 
understanding, implies the conception of things 
not due, and confequently the conception of 
things that are due. 


5^2 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5. 

A negative cannot be conceived by one who 
has no conception of the correfpondent poli- 
tive. Not to be due is the negative of being- 
due ; and he who conceives one of them muft 
conceive both. The conception of things due 
and not due muft therefore be found in every 
mind which has any rational conception of a 
favour, or any rational fentiment of gratitude. 

If we confider, on the other hand, what an 
injury is which is the object of the natural paf- 
fion of refentment, every man, capable of re- 
flection, perceives, that an injury implies more 
than being hurt. If I be hurt by a Hone falling 
out of the wall, or by a flafh of lightning, or by 
a convuliive and involuntary motion of another 
man's arm, no injury is done, no refentment 
raifed in a man that has reafon. In this, as in 
all moral actions, there muft be the will and in- 
tention of ihe agent to do the hurt. 

Nor is this fufficient to conftitute an injury. 
The man who breaks my fences, or treads down 
xny corn, when he cannot otherwife preferve 
himfelf from deftruclion, who ha .0 injurious 
intention, and is willing to indemnify me for 
the hurt which neceffity, and not ill will, led 
him to do, is not injurious, nor is an object of 

The executioner who does iiis duty, in cut- 
ting off the head of a condemned criminal, is 
not an object of refentment. He does nothing 
unjuft, and therefore nothing injurious. 


or justice. 523 

From this it is evident, that an injury, the 
jbject of the natural paffion of refentment, im- 
plies in it the notion of injuftice. And it is no 
lefs evident, that no man can have a notion of 
injuftice without having the notion of juftice. 

To fum up what has been laid upon this 
point: A favour, an act of juftice, and an in- 
jury, are fo related to one another, that he who 
conceives one mud conceive the other two. 
They lie, as it were, in one line, and refemble 
the relations of greater, lefs and equal. If one 
underltands what is meant by one line being 
greater or lefs than another, he can be at no 
lofs to underftand what is meant by its being 
equal to the other ; for, if it be neither greater 
nor lefs, it muft be equal. 

In like manner, of thofe actions by which we 
profit or hurt other men, a favour is more than 
juftice, an injury is lefs ; and that which is nei- 
ther a favour nor an injury is a juft action. 

As foon, therefore, as men come to have any 
proper notion of a favour and of an injury; as 
foon as they have any rational exercife of grati- 
tude and of refentment ; fo foon they muft have 
the conception of juftice and of injuftice ; and 
if gratitude and refentment be natural to man, 
which Mr Hume allows, the notion of juftice 
muft be no lefs natural. 

The notion of juftice carries infeparably along 
with it, a perception of its moral obligation. 
For to fay that fuch an action is an act of ju- 

524 is say v. [chap. 5. 

ftice, that it is due, that it ought to be done, 
that we are under a moral obligation to do it, 
are only different ways of expreffing the fame 
thing. It is true, that we perceive no high de- 
gree of moral worth in a merely juft action, 
when it is not oppofed by intereit or paffion ; 
but we perceive a high degree of turpitude and 
dement in unjuft actions, or in the omifiion of 
what juftice requires. 

Indeed, if there were no other argument to 
prove, that the obligation of juftice is not folely 
derived from its utility to procure what is a- 
greeable either to ourfelves or to fociety, this 
would be fufficient, That the very conception 
of juftice implies its obligation. The morality 
of juftice is included in the very idea of it : 
Nor is it poffible that the conception of juftice 
can enter into the human mind, without carry- 
ing along with it the conception of duty and 
moral obligation. Its obligation, therefore, is 
infeparable from its nature, and is not derived 
iule]y from its utility, either to ourfelves or to 

We may farther cbferve, That as in all mo- 
ral eitimation, every action takes its denomina- 
tion from the motive that produces it ; io no 
action can properly be denominated an act of 
juftice, unlefs it be done from a regard to ju- 

If a man pays his debt, only that he may not 
be caft into prifon, he is not a juft man, becaufe 



prudence, and not juftice, is his motive. And 
if a man, from benevolence and charity, gives 
to another what is really due to him, but what he 
believes not to be due, this is not an act of ju- 
ftice in him, but of charity or benevolence, be- 
caufe it is not done from a motive of juftice. 
Thefe are felf-evident truths ; nor is it lefs e% T i- 
dent, that what a man does, merely to procure 
fomething agreeable, either to himfeif or to 
others, is not an act of juftice, nor has the merit 
of juftice. 

Good mufic and good cookery have the merit 
of utility, in procuring what is agreeable both 
to ourfelves and to fociety, but they never ob- 
tained among mankind the denomination of 
moral virtues. Indeed, if this author's fyftem 
be well founded, great injuftice has been done 
them on that account. 

I fhall now make fome obfervations upon the 
reafoning of this author, in proof of his favour- 
ite principle, That juftice is not a natural but 
an artificial virtue ; or, as it is expreffed in the 
Enquiry, That public utility is the fole origin 
of juftice, and that reflections on the beneficial 
confequences of this virtue are the fole founda- 
tion of its merit. 

1. It muft be acknowledged, that this prin- 
ciple has a neceffary connection with his fy- 
ftem concerning the foundation of all virtue ; 
and therefore it is no wonder that he hath taken 


526 essay v. [chap. 5, 

fo much pains to fupport it ; for the whole fy- 
ftera rauft ftand or fall with it. 

If the duke and the utile, that is, pleafure, 
and what is ufeful to procure pleafure, be the 
whole merit of virtue, juftice can have no merit 
beyond its utility to procure pleafure. If, on 
the other had, an intrinfic worth in juftice, and 
demerit in injuftice, be difcerned by every man 
that hath a confcience ; if there be a natural 
principle in the conftitution of man, by which 
juftice is approved, and injuftice difapproved 
and condemned, then the whole of this labour- 
ed fyftem mull fall to the ground. 

2. We may obferve, That as juftice is directly 
oppofed to injury, and as there are various ways 
in which a man may be injured, fo there rhuft 
be various branches of juftice oppofed to the 
different kinds of injury. 

A man may be injured, firjl, in his perfon, by 
wounding, maiming or killing him ; fecondly, 
in his family, by robbing him of his children, 
or any way injuring thofe he is bound to pro- 
tect ; thirdly, in his liberty, by confinement ; 
fourthly, in his reputation ; fifthly, in his goods 
or property ; and, lajlly, in the violation of con- 
tracts or engagements made with him. This 
enumeration, whether complete or not, is fuffi- 
cient for the prefent purpole. 

The different branches of juftice, oppofed to 
thefe different kinds of injury, are commonly - 
exprefted by faying, that -an innocent man has 



a right to the fafety of his perfon and family, a 
right to his liberty and reputation, a right to 
his goods, . and to fidelity to engagements made 
with him. To fay that he has a right to thefe 
things, has precifely the fame meaning as to fay, 
that juftice requires that we mould be permit- 
ted to enjoy them, or that it is unjuft to violate 
them. For injuftice is the violation of right, 
and juftice is, to yield to every man what is his 

Thefe things being underftood as the limp! eft 
and moft common ways of exprefiing the va- 
rious branches of juftice, we are to confider how 
far Mr Hume's veafoning proves any or all of 
them to be artificial, or grounded folely upon 
public utility. The laft of them, fidelity to en- 
gagements, is to be the fubject of the next chap- 
ter, and therefore I fhall fay nothing of it in 

The four firft named, to wit, the right of an 
innocent man to the fafety of his perfon and fa- 
mily, to his liberty and reputation, are, by the 
writers on jurifprudence, called natural rights 
of man, becaufe they are grounded in the na- 
ture of man as a rational and moral agent, and 
are, by his Creator, committed to his care and 
keeping. By being called natural or innate, 
they are diftinguifhed from acquired rights, 
which fuppofe fome previous act or deed of man 
by which they are acquired, whereas natural 
rights fuppofe nothing of this kind. 


528 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5* 

When a man's natural rights are violated, he 
perceives intuitively, and he feels, that he is in- 
jured. The feeling of his heart arifes from the 
judgment of his underftanding ; for if he did 
not believe that the hurt was intended, and un- 
juftly intended, he would not have that feeling. 
He perceives that injury is done to himfelf, and 
that he has a right to redrefs. The natural 
principle of refentment is roufed by the view of 
its proper object, and excites him to defend his 
right. Even the injurious perfon is confcious 
of his doing injury ; he dreads a juft retalia- 
tion ; and if it be in the power of the injured 
perfon, he expects it as due and deferved. 

That thefe fentiments fpring up in the mind 
of man as naturally as his body grows to its pro- 
per ftature ; that they are not the birth of in- 
ftru&ion, either of parents, priefts, philofophers 
or politicians, but the pure growth of nature, 
cannot, I think, without effrontery, be denied. 
We find them equally flrong in the moft favage 
and in the moll civilized tribes of mankind ; 
and nothing can weaken them but an invete- 
rate habit of rapine and bloodihed, which be- 
numbs the confcience, and turns men into wild 

The public good is very properly confldered 
by the judge who punifhes a private injury, but 
feldom enters into the thought of the injured 
perfon. In all criminal law, the redrefs due to 
the private fufferer is diftinguifhed from that 



which is due to the public ; a diflinction which 
could have no foundation, if the demerit of in- 
juftice arofe folely from its hurting the public. 
And every man is confcious of a fpecific diffe- 
rence between the refentment he feels for an 
injury done to himfelf, and his indignation a- 
gainft a wrong done to the public. 

I think, therefore, it is evident, that, of the fix 
branches of juftice we mentioned, four are natu- 
ral, in the ftricteft fenie, being founded upon the 
conftitution of man, and antecedent to all deeds 
and conventions of fociety ; fo that, if there 
were but two men upon the earth, one might be 
unjuft and injurious, and the other injured. 
But does Mr Hume maintain the contrary ? 
To this queftion I anfwer, That his doctrine 
feems to imply it, but I hope he meant it not. 

He affirms in general, that juftice is not a na- 
tural virtue ; that it derives its origin folely 
from public utility, and that reflections on the 
beneficial confequences of this virtue are the 
fole foundation of its merit. He mentions no 
particular branch of juftice as an exception to 
this general rule ; yet juftice, in common lan- 
guage, and in all the writers on jurifprudence I 
am acquainted with, comprehends the four 
branches above mentioned. His doctrine, there- 
fore, according to the common eonftruction of 
words, extends to thefe four, as well as to the 
two other branches of jufiice. 

Vol. III. L 1 On 

53° ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5. 

On the other hand, if we attend- to his long 
and laboured proof of this doctrine, it appears 
evident, that he had in his eye only two parti- 
cular branches of juftice. No part of his rea- 
foning applies to the other four. He feems, I 
know not why, to have taken up a confined no- 
tion of juftice, and to have reftricted it to a re- 
gard to property and fidelity in contracts. As 
to other branches he is filent. He nowhere fays, 
that it is not naturally criminal to rob an inno- 
cent man of his life, of his children, of his li- 
berty, or of his reputation \ and I am apt to 
think he never meant it. 

The only Philofopher I know who has had the 
aiTurance to maintain this r is Mr Hobbes, who 
makes the ftate of nature to be a ftate of war, 
of every man againfi; every man ; and of fuch a 
war in which every man has a right to do and 
to acquire whatever his power can, by any 
means, accomplifh ; that is, a ftate wherein nei- 
ther right nor injury, juftice nor injuftice, can 
poflibly exift. 

Mr Hume mentions this fyftem of Hobbes, 
but without adopting it, though he allows-it the 
authority of Cicero in its favour. 

He fays in a note, " This fiction of a ftate of 
" nature as a ftate of war was not firft ftarted 
" by Mr Hobbes, as is commonly imagined:, 
-" Plato endeavours to refute an hypothefis ve- 
" ry like it, in the 2d, 3d and 4th books, De Re- 
" publica. Cicer.0, on the contrary, fuppofes it 

" certain 


" certain and univerfally acknowledged, in the 
« fallowing paifage, Isc. Pro Sextio, /. 42." 

The pafTage, which he quotes at .large, from 
one of Cicero's Orations, feems to me to re- 
quire fome {training to make it tally with the 
fyftem of Mr Hobbes. Be this as it may, Mi- 
Home might have added, That Cicero, in his 
Orations, like many other pleaders, fometimes 
fays, not what he believed, but what was fit to 
fupport the caufe of his client. That Cicero's 
opinion, with regard to the natural , obligation 
of jtiftice, was very different from that of Mr 
Hobbes, and even from Mr Hume's, is very 
*well known. 

3. As Mr Hume, therefore, has faid nothing 
to prove the four branches of juftice which re- 
late to the innate rights of men, to be artificial, 
or to derive their origin folely from public uti- 
lity, I proceed to the fifth branch, which re- 
quires us not to invade another man's proper- 

The right of property is not innate, but ac- 
quired. It is not grounded upon the conftitu* 
tion of man, but upon his aclions. Writers on 
jurifprudence have explained its origin in a 
manner that may fatisfy every man of, common 

The earth is given to men in common for the 

purpofes of life, by the bounty, of Heaven. 

Eat, to divide it, and appropriate one. part of 

its produce to one, another part to another, muft 

L 1 2 be 

53'2 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5, 

be the work of men who have power and un- 
derstanding given them, by which every man 
may accommodate himfelf without hurt to any 

This common right of every man to what the 
earth produces, before it be occupied and appro- 
priated by others, was, by ancient moraliftsy ve- 
ry properly compared to the right which every 
citizen had to the public theatre, where every 
man that came might occupy an empty feat, and 
thereby acquire a right to it while the entertain- 
ment lafled ; but no man j had a right to difpof- 
fefs another. 

The earth is a great theatre, furnifhed by the 
Almighty, with perfect wifdom and goodnefs, 
for the entertainment and employment of all 
mankind. Here every man has a right to ac- 
commodate himfelf as a fpeclator, and to per- 
form his part as an actor, but without hurt to 

He who does fo is a juft man, and thereby en- 
titled to fome degree of moral approbation ; and 
he who not only does no hurt, but employs his 
power to do good, is a good man, and is thereby 
entitled to a higher degree of moral approbation. 
But he who juftles and molefts his neighbour, 
who deprives him of any accommodation which 
his induftry has provided without hurt to others, 
is unjuft, and a proper object of reientment. 

It is true, therefore, that property has a begin- 
ning from the actions of men, occupying, and 



perhaps improving, by their induitry, what was 
common by nature. It is true alfo, that before 
property exifls, that branch of juftice and inj.uf- 
tice which regards property cannot exiit. But 
it is alfo true, that where there are men, there 
will yery foon be property of one kind or ano- 
ther, and confequently there will be that branch 
of juftice which attends property as its guardian. 

There are two kinds of property which we 
may diftinguifh. 

Thtfirjl, is what mud prefently be confumed 
to fuftain life ; the fecond, which is more per- 
manent, is what may be laid up and ftored for 
the fupply of future wants. 

Some of the gifts of nature mufl be ufed and 
confumed by individuals for the daily fupport of 
life ; but they cannot be ufed till they be occu- 
pied and appropriated. If another perfon may, 
without jnjuitice, rob me of what I have inno- 
cently occupied for prefent fubfiftence, the ne- 
ceflary confequence muft be, that he may, with- 
out, injuflice, take away my life. 

A right to life implies a right to the neceffary 
means of life. And that juftice which forbids 
the taking away the life of an innocent man, 
forbids no lefs the taking from him the neceftarv 
means of life. He has the fame right .to defend 
the one as the other ; and nature .infpires him 
with the fame juft refentment of the one -injury 
as of the other. 

LI 3' The 


4 E S S A.Y V, \ [CHAP. 5. 

The naturalright of liberty implies a right to 
iuch innocent labour as a man choofes, and to the 
fruit of that labour. To hinder another man's 
innocent labour, or to deprive him of the fruit 
of it, is an injuftice of the fame kind, and has 
the fame effect as to put him in fetters or in 
prifon, and is equally a juft object of refent- 

Thus it appears, that fome kind, or fome de- 
gree, of property mull exift wherever men exift, 
and that the right to fuch property is the necef- 
fary confequence of the natural right of men to 
life and liberty. 

It has been further obi'erved, that God has 
made man a fagacious and provident animal, led 
by his conftitution not only to occupy and ufe 
what nature has provided for the fupply of his 
prefcnt wants and neceffities, but to forefee fu- 
ture wants and to provide for them ", and that 
not only for himfelf, but for his family, his 
friends and connections. 

He therefore acls in perfect conformity to his 
nature, When he itores, of the fruit of his labour, 
what may afterwards be ufeful to himfelf or to 
others ; when he invents and fabricates utenfils 
or machines by which his labour may be facili- 
tated, and its produce increafed ; and when, by 
exchanging with his fellow-men commodities or 
labour, he accommodates both himfelf and them. 
Thefe are the natural and innocent exertions of 
that underftanding wherewith his Maker has 


of justice. 535 

endowed him. He has therefore a right to ex- 
ercife them, and to enjoy the fruit of them. 
Every man who impedes him in making fuch 
exertions, or deprives him of the fruit of them, 
is injurious and unjuft, and an object of juft re- 

Many brute-animals are led by inftinct. to 
provide for futurity, and to defend their ftore, 
and their ftore-houfe, againft all invaders. There 
feems to be in man, before the ufe of reafon, an 
inftinct. of the fame kind. When reafon and 
confcience grow up, they approve and juftify 
this provident care, and condemn, as unjuft, 
every invafton of others, that may frustrate it. 

Two inftances of this provident fngacity feem 
to be peculiar to man. I mean the invention of 
utenfils and machines for facilitating labour, and 
the making exchanges with his fellow-men for 
mutual benefit. No tribe of men has been found 
fo rude as not to practife thefe things in fome 
degree. And I know no tribe of brutes that 
was ever obferved to praclife them. They nei- 
ther invent nor ufe utenfils or machines, nor do 
they traffic by exchanges. 

From thefe obfervations, I think it evident, 
that man, even in the .ftate of nature, by his 
powers of body and mind, may acquire perma- 
nent property, or what we call riches, by which 
his own and his family's wants are more libe- 
rally fupplied, and his power enlarged to re- 
quite his benefactors, to relieve objects of com- 
L 1 4 paflion. 

536 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 5. 

pafiion, to make friends, and to defend his pro- 
perty againft unjuft invaders. And we know 
from hiftory, that men, who had no fuperior on 
earth, no connection with any public beyond 
their own family, have acquired property, and 
had diftinct notions of that juftice and injuftice, 
of which it is the object. 

Every man, as a reafonable creature, has a 
right to gratify his natural and innocent deiires 
without hurt to others. No delire is more na- 
tural, or more reafonable, than that of fupply- 
ing his wants. When this is done without 
hurt tc any man, to hinder or fruftrate his inno- 
cent labour, is an unjuft violation of his natural 
liberty. Private utility leads a man to delire 
property, and to labour for it ; and his right to 
it is only a right to labour for his own benefit. 

That public utility is the fcle origin, even of 
that branch of juftice which regards property, is 
fo far from being true, that when men confede- 
rate and conflitute a public, under laws and go- 
vernment, the right of each individual to his 
property is, by that confederation, abridged and 
limited. In the ftate of nature every man's 
property was folely at his own difpofal, becaufe 
he had no fuperior. In civil fociety it muft be 
fubjecl to the laws of the fociety. He gives 
up to the public part of that right which he 
had in the ftate of nature, as the price of that 
protection and fecurity which he receives from 
civil fociety. In the ftate of nature,, he was fole 


of- justice. 537 

judge in his own caufe, and had right to defend 
his property, his liberty, and life, as far as his 
power reached. In the Hate of civil fociety, he 
mud fubmit to the judgment of the fociety, and 
acquiefce in its fentence, though he fhould con- 
ceive it to be unjuft. 

What was laid above, of the natural right 
every man has to acquire permanent property, 
and to diipofe of it, rriiift be underilood with 
this condition, That no other man be thereby 
deprived of the neceffary means of life. The 
right of an innocent man to the neceffaries of 
life, is, in its nature, fuperior to that which the 
rich man has to his riches, even though they be 
honeftly acquired. The ufe of riches, or per- 
manent property, is to fupply future and carnal 
wants, which ought to yield to prefent and cer- 
tain neceflity. 

As, in a family, juflice requires that the chil- 
dren who are unable to labour, and thole who ? 
by ficknefs, are difabled, mould have their ne- 
eeffities fupplied out of the common flock, fo, in 
the great family of God, of which all mankind 
are the children, juflice, I think, as well as cha- 
rity, requires, that the neceffities of thofe who, 
by the providence of God, are difabled from 
fupplying themfelves, mould be fupplied from 
what might otherwife be flored for future 

From this it appears, That the right of ac- 
quiring and that of difpofing of property, may 


53 8 essay v. [chap. 5. 

be fubjedl to limitations and reftri&iqns, even in 
the date of nature, and much more in the ilate 
of civil fociety, in which the public has what 
writers in jurifprudence call an- eminent dominion 
over the property, as well as over the lives of 
the fubjecls, as far as the public good requires. 

If thefe principles be well founded, Mr 
Hume's arguments to prove that juitice is an 
artificial virtue, or that its public utility is the 
fole foundation of its merit, may be ealily an- 

He fuppofes, j?r^, a ftate in which nature has 
beflowed on the human race, fuch abundance of 
external goods, that every man, without care or 
induftry, finds himfelf provided of whatever he 
can wifh or defire. It is evident, fays he, that 
in fuch a flate, the cautious jealous virtue of ju- 
itice would never once have been dreamed of. 

Xtmay be obferved, j6r/?, That this argument 
applies only to one of the fix branches of juftice 
before mentioned. The other five are not in 
the lead affected by it ; and the reader will ea- 
fily perceive that this obiervation applies to al- 
moft all his arguments, fo that it needs not be 

Secondly, All that this argument proves is, 
That a ftate of the human race may be concei- 
ved wherein no property exifts, and where, of 
confequence, there can be no exercife of that 
branch of juftice which refpe&s property. But 
does it follow from this, that where property ex- 

of justice. 539 

iftsj and rauft exiit, that no regard ought to be 
had to it ? : 

He next fuppofes that the neceftities of the 
human race continuing the fame as at prefent, 
the mind is fo enlarged with friendihip and ge- 
nerofity, that every man feels as much tender- 
nefs and concern for the intereft of every man, 
as for his own. It feems evident, he fays, that 
the ufe of jufticc would be fufpended by fuch an 
extenlive benevolence, nor would the divifions 
and barriers of property and obligation have 
ever been thought of. 

I anfwer, the conduct which this extenlive 
benevolence leads to, is either perfectly confid- 
ent with juftice, or it is not. Firjl, If there be 
any cafe where this benevolence would lead us 
to do injuitice, the ufe of juftice is not fufpend- 
ed. Its obligation is fuperior to that of bene- 
volence ; and, to ihew benevolence to one, at 
the expence of injuitice to another, is immoral. 
Secondly, Suppofing no fuch cafe could happen, 
the ufe of juftice would not be fufpended, be- 
caufe by it we rauft diftinguifh good offices to 
which we had a right, from thofe to which we 
had no right, and which therefore require a re- 
turn of gratitude. Thirdly, Suppofing the ufe 
of juftice to be fufpended, as it muft be in every 
cafe where it cannot be exercifed, Will it fol- 
low, that its obligation is fufpended, where there 
is accefs to exercife it ? 


54° essay v. [chap. 5. 

A third fuppofition is, the reveyfe of the firft, 
That a fociety falls into extreme want of the 
neceflaries of life : The queftion is put, Whe- 
ther in fuch a cafe, an equal partition of bread, 
without regard to private property, though ef- 
fected by power, and even by violence, would 
be regarded as criminal and injurious ? And the 
Author conceives, that this would be a fufpen- 
fion of the ftrict laws of juftice. 

I anfwer, That fuch an equal partition as Mr 
Hume mentions, is fo far from being criminal 
or injurious, that juftice requires it ; and furely 
that cannot be a fufpenrion of the laws of juftice, 
which is an act of juilice. All that the ftricteft 
juftice requires in fuch a cafe, is, That the man 
whofe life is preferved at the expence of ano- 
ther, and without bis confent, ihould indemnify 
him when he is able. His cafe is fimilar to that 
of a debtor who is infolvent, without any fault 
on his part. Juftice requires that he mould be 
forborn till he is able to pay. It is ftrange that 
Mr Hume ihould think that an action, neither 
criminal nor injurious ? mould be a fufpeniion of 
the laws of juftice. This feems to me a contra- 
diction, for jujiice and injury are contradictory 

The next argument is thus expreffed : " When 
" any man, even in political fociety, renders 
*' himfelf, by crimes, obnoxious to the public, 
" he is punifhed in his goods and perfon ; that 
" is, the ordinary rules of juftice are, with re- 

" gard 


" gard to him, fufpended for a moment, and it 
" becomes equitable to inflict on him, what 
" otherwife he could not fuffer without wrong 
" or injury/' 

This argument, like the former, refutes itfelf. 
For that an action fhould be a fufpenfion of the 
rules of juftice, and at the fame time equitable, 
feems to me a contradiction. It is poffible that 
equity may interfere with the letter of human 
laws, becaufe all the cafes that may fall under 
them, cannot be forefeen ; but that equity 
mould interfere with juftice is impoflible. It is 
ftrange that Mr Hume mould think, that juftice 
requires that a criminal fhould be treated in the 
fame way as an innocent man. 

Another argument is taken from public war. 
What is it, fays he, but a fufpenfion of juftice 
among the warring parties ? The laws of war, 
which then fucceed to thofe of equity and ju- 
ftice, are rules calculated for the advantage and 
utility of that particular ftate in which men arc 
now placed. 

I anfvver, when war is undertaken for felf-de- 
fence, or for reparation or" intolerable injuries, 
juftice authorifes it. The laws of war, which 
have been defcribed by many judicious mora- 
lifts, are all drawn from the fountain of juftice 
and equity ; and every thing contrary to juftice, 
is contrary to the laws of war. That juftice, 
which prefcribes one rule of conduct to a m after, 
another to a fervant ; one to a parent, another 


54 2 essay v. [chap. 5. 

to a child; prescribes alfo one rule of conduct 
towards a friend, another towards an enemy. I 
do not underftand what Mr Hume means by the 
advantage and utility of a ftate of war, for which 
he fays the laws of war are calculated, and fuc- 
ceed to thofe of juftice and equity. I know no 
laws of war that are not calculated for juftice 
and equity. 

The next argument is this, were there afpe- 
cies of creatures intermingled with men, which, 
though rational, were poffefted of fuch inferior 
flrength, both of body and mind, that they were 
incapable of all refinance, and could never, upon 
the higheft provocation, make us feel the effects 
of their refentment ; the neceftary confequence, 
I think is, that we ihould be bound, by the laws 
of humanity, to give gentle ufage to thefe crea- 
tures, but ihould not, properly fpeaking, lie un- 
der any reftraint of juftice with regard to them, 
nor could they poflefs any right or property., 
exclufive of fuch arbitrary lords. 

If Mr Hume had not owned this fentiment 
as a confequence of his Theory of Morals, 1 
fliould have thought it very uncharitable to im- 
pute it to him. However, we may judge of the 
Theory by its avowed confequence. For there 
cannot be better evidence, that a theory of mo- 
rals, or of any particular virtue, is falfe, than 
when it fubverts the practical rules of morals. 
This defencelefs fpecies of rational creatures is 
doomed by Mr Hume to have no rights. Why? 


of justice. 543 

Becaufe they have no power to defend them- 
felves. Is not this to fay, That right has its ori- 
gin from power ; which, indeed, was the doc- 
trine of Mr Hobbes. And to illuftrate this doc- 
trine, Mr Hume adds, That as no inconvenience 
ever remits from the exercife of a power, fo 
firmly eftablifhed in nature, the reftraints cf 
juftice and property being totally ufelefs, could 
never have place in fo unequal a confederacy ; 
and, to the fame purpofe, he fays, that the fe- 
male part of our own fpecies, owe the fhare they 
have in the rights of fociety, to the power which 
their addrefs and their charms give them. If 
this be found morals, Mr Hume's Theory of Ju- 
ftice may be true. 

We may here obferve, that though, in other 
places, Mr Hume founds the obligation of ju- 
ftice upon its utility to our/elves, or to others, it 
is here founded folely upon utility to our/elves. 
For furely to be treated with juftice would be 
highly ufeful to the defencelefs fpecres he here 
fuppofes to exift. But as no inconvenience to 
ourfelves can ever refult from our treatment of 
them, he concludes, that juftice would be ufelefs, 
and therefore can have no place. Mr Hobbes 
could have faid no more. 

He fuppofes, in the lajl place, a ftate of hu- 
man nature, wherein all fociety and intercourie 
is cut off between man and man. It is evident, 
he fays, that fo folitary a being would be as 


544 essay v. [chap. 5. 

much incapable of juftice as of focial difcourfe 
and converfation. 

And would not fo folitary a being be as inca- 
pable of friendfhip, generofity and companion, 
as of juftice? If this argument prove juftice to 
be an artificial virtue, it will, with equal force, 
prove every focial virtue to be artificial. 

Thefe are the arguments which Mr Hume 
has advanced in his Enquiry, in the firft part of 
a long fedion upon juftice. 

In the fecond part, the arguments are not fo 
clearly diftinguifhed, nor can they be eafily col- 
lected. I (hall offer fome remarks upon what 
feems moft fpecious in this fecond part. 

He begins with obferving, " That, if we exa- 
" mine the particular laws by which juftice is 
" directed and property determined, they pre- 
" fent us with the fame conclufion. The good of 
" mankind is the only object of all thofe laws 
" and regulations." 

It is not eafy to perceive where the ftrefs of 
this argument lies. The good of mankind is the 
object of all the laws and regulations by which 
juftice is di reeled and property determined ; there- 
fore juftice is not a natural virtue, but has its ori- 
gin folely from public utility, and its beneficial con- 
fequences are the fole foundation of its merit. 

Some (tep feems to be wanting to conned: the 
antecedent propofition with the conclufion, 
which, I think, muft be one or ether of thefe 
two propofitions - 3 firft, All the rules of juftice 


of justice. 545 

tend to public utility ; or, fecondly, Public utility 
is the only Jl and ard of jujlice, from which alone 
all its rules mujl be deduced. 

If the argument be, That juftice mult have 
its origin folely from public utility, becaufe all 
its rules tend to public utility, I cannot admit 
the confequence \ nor can Mr Hume admit it 
without overturning his own fyftem. For the 
rules of benevolence and humanity do all tend 
to the public utility, and yet in his fyftem, they 
have another foundation in human nature ; fo 
likewife may the rules of juftice. 

I am apt to think, therefore, that the argu- 
ment is to be taken in the laft fenfe, That pu- 
blic utility is the only ftandard of juftice, from 
which all its rules muft be deduced ; and there- 
fore juftice has its origin folely from public uti- 

This feems to be Mr Hume's meaning, be- 
caufe, in what follows, he oblerves, That, in or- 
der to eftablifh laws for the regulation of pro- 
perty, we muft be acquainted with the nature 
and fituation of man ; muft reject appearances 
which may be falfe, though fpecious ; and muft 
fearch for thofe rules which are, on the whole, 
moit ufeful and beneficial ; and endeavours to 
fhevv, that the eftablifhed rules which regard 
property are more for the public good, than the 
fyftem, either of thofe religious fanatics of the 
laft age, who held, that faints only fhould inhe- 

Vol. III. M m rit 

546 E S S A Y V. [CHAP. 5. 

rit the earth ; or of thole political fanatics, who 
claimed an equal diviiion of property. 

We fee here, as before, that though Mr 
Hume's concluiion refpecls juitice in general, 
his argument is confined to one branch of ju- 
ftice, to wit, the right of property ; and it is 
well known, that, to conclude from a part to 
the whole, is not good rcaibning. 

Betides, the propolition from which his con- 
clulion is drawn, cannot be granted, either with 
regard to property, or with regard to the other 
branches of juitice. 

We endeavoured before to mow, that pro- 
perty, though not an innate but an acquired 
right, may be acquired in the ftate of nature, 
and agreeably to the laws of nature ; and that 
this right has not its origin from human laws, 
made for the public good, though, when men 
enter into political fociety, it may and ought to 
be regulated by thole laws. 

If there were but two men upon the face of 
the earth, of ripe faculties, each might have his 
own property, and might know his right to de- 
fend it, and his obligation not to invade the pro- 
perty of the other. He would have no need to 
have recourfe to reafoning from public good, in 
order to know when he was injured, either in 
his property, or in any of his natural rights, or 
to know what rules of juitice he ought to ob~ 
ferve towards his neighbour. 



The fimple rule, of not doing to his neigh- 
bour what he would think wrong to be done to 
himfelf, would lead him to the knowledge of 
every branch of juftice, without the considera- 
tion of public good, or of laws and ftatutes 
made to promote it. 

It is not true, therefore, That public utility 
is the only ftandard of juftice, and that the rules 
of juftice can be deduced only from their pu- 
blic utility. 

Aristides, and the people of Athens, had 
furely another notion of juftice, when he pro- 
nounced the counfel of Themistocles, which 
was communicated to him only, to be highly 
ufeful, but unjuft ; and the affembly, upon this 
authority, rejected the propofal unheard. Thefe 
honeft citizens, though fubject to no laws but 
of their own making, far from making utility 
the ftandard of juftice, made juftice to be the 
ftandard of utility. 

" What is a man's property ? Any thing which 
" it is lawful for him, and for him alone, to ufe. 
" But what rule have we by which we can di- 
" JlinguiJ}) thefe objects ? Here we muft have re- 
" courfe to ftatutes, cuftoms, precedents, ana- 
" logies, &c." 

Does not this imply, that, in the ftate of na- 
ture, there can be no diftinction of property: 
If fo, Mr Hume's ftate of nature is the fame 
with that of Mr Hobbes. 

M 2 It 

£ S S A Y" V. [CHAF. 5„ 

It is true, that, when men become members 
of a political fociety, they fubjedt their property, 
as well as themfelves, to the laws, and mull 
either acquiefce in what the laws determine, or 
leave the fociety. But juftice, and even that 
particular branch of it which our author always 
fuppofes to be the whole, is antecedent to poli- 
tical focieties and to their laws ; and the inten- 
tion of thefe laws is, to be the guardians of juftice, 
and to redrefs injuries. 

As all the works of men are imperfect, human 
laws may be unjuft ; which could never be, if 
juftice had its origin from law, as the author 
feems here to insinuate. 

Juftice requires, that a member of a ftate 
fhould fubmit to the laws of the ftate, when 
they require nothing unjuft or impious. There 
may, therefore, be ftatutory rights and ftatutory 
crimes. A ftatute may create a right which did 
not before exift, or make that to be criminal 
which was not fo before. But this could never 
be, if there were not an antecedent obligation 
upon the fubje&s to obey the ftatutes. In like 
manner, the command of a mafter may make 
that to be the fervant's duty which, before, was 
not his duty, and the fervant maybe chargeable 
with injuftice if he difobeys, becaufe he was un- 
der an antecedent obligation to obey his mafter 
in lawful things. 

We grant, therefore, that particular laws may 
direct juftice and determine property, and fome- 


of justice. 549 

times even upon very flight reafons and analo- 
gies, or even for no other reafon but that it is 
better that iuch a point mould be determined 
by law than that it mould be left a dubious fub- 
jecl of contention. But this, far from prefent- 
ing us with the conclulion which the author 
would eftablifh, prefents us with a contrary con- 
clulion. For all thefe particular laws and fla* 
tutes derive their whole obligation and force 
from a general rule of juftice antecedent to them, 
to wit, That mbjecls ought to obey the laws of 
their country. 

The author compares the rules of juftice with 
the mod frivolous fuperftitions, and can find no 
foundation for moral fentiment in the one more 
than in the other, excepting that juftice is requi- 
fite to the well-being and exiftence of fcciety. 

It is very true, that, if we examine mine and 
thine by the fenfes of jight, fmell or touch, or Scru- 
tinize them by the fciences of medicine, chemiflry 
or phyjics, we perceive no difference. But the 
reafon is, that none of thefe fenfes or fciences 
are the judges of right or wrong, or can give any 
conception of them, any more than the ear of 
colour, or the eye of found. Every man of 
common underftanding, and every favage, when 
he applies his moral faculty to thofe objects, per- 
ceives a difference as clearly as he perceives day- 
light. When that fenfe or faculty is not con- 
fulted, in vain do we confult every other, in a 
queflion of right and wrong. 

M m 3 To 

550 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 


To perceive that juftice tends to the 'good of 
mankind, would lay no moral obligation upon 
lis to be juft, unlefs we be confcious of a moral 
obligation to do what tends to the good of man- 
kind. If fuch a moral obligation be admitted, 
why may we not admit a ftronger obligation to 
do injury to no man ? The lafl obligation is as 
eafily conceived as the firft, and there is as clear 
evidence of its exigence in human nature. 

The lad argument is a dilemma, and is thus 
exprefied : " The dilemma feems obvious'. As 
" juftice evidently tends to promote public uti- 
" lity, and to fupport civil fociety, the fentiment 
" of juftice is either derived from our reflecting 
" on that tendency, or, like hunger, third and 
f l other appetites, refentment, love of life, at- 
" tachment to offspring, and other paffions, 
" arifes from a fimple original inftincT; in the 
f* human breaft, which nature has implanted for 
" like falutary purpofes. If the latter be the 
" cafe, it follov/s, That property, which is the 
iS object of juftice, is alfo diftinguifhed by a 
" fimple original inftincT, and is not afcertained 
" by any argument or reflection. But who is 
" there that ever heard of fuch an inftincT;," &c. 

I doubt not but Mr Hume has heard of a 
principle called confcience, which nature has im- 
planted in the human breaft. Whether he will 
call it a fimple original inftincT:, I know not, as 
lie gives that name to all our appetites and to 



all our paffions. From this principle, I think, 
we derive the fentiment of juftice. 

As the eye not only gives us the conception of 
colours, but makes us perceive one body to have 
one colour, and another body another ; and as 
our reafon not only gives us the conception of 
true and falfe, but makes us perceive one propo- 
sition to be true and another to be falfe ; fo our 
confcience, or moral faculty, not only gives us 
the conception of honeft and difhoneft, but makes 
us perceive one kind of conduci to be honeft, 
another to be difhoneft. By this faculty we 
perceive a merit in honeft conduci:, and a deme- 
rit in difhoneft, without regard to public utility. 

That thefe fentiments are not the effecl of 
education or of acquired habits, , we have the 
fame reafon to conclude, as that our perception 
of what is true and what falfe, is not the effect 
of education or of acquired habits. There have 
been men who profeffed to believe, that there is 
no ground to aifent to any one proportion rather 
than its contrary ; but I never yet heard of a 
man who had the effrontery to profefs himfelf 
to be under no obligation of honour or honefty, 
of truth or juftice, in his dealings with men. 

Nor does this faculty of confcience require 
innate ideas of property, and of the various ways 
of acquiring and transferring it, or innate ideas of 
kings and fenatGrs, of pretors and chancellors and 
juries, any more than the faculty of feeing re- 
quires innate ideas of colours, or than the facul- 

M m 4 ty 


ESSAY V. [CHAP. 6 4 

ty of reafoning requires innate ideas of cones, 
cylinders and fpheres. 


Of the Nature and Obligation of a Contract. 

THE obligation of contracts and promifes is 
a matter fo facred, and of fuch confe- 
quence to human fociety, that fpeculations 
which have a tendency to weaken that obliga- 
tion, and to perplex mens notions on a fubjecT: 
fo plain and fo important, ought to meet with 
the difapprobation of all honeft men. 

Some fuch fpeculations, I think, we have in 
the third volume of Mr Hume's Treatife of Hu- 
man Nature, and in his Enquiry into the Prin- 
ciples of Morals ; and my delign in this chapter 
is, to offer fome obfervations on the nature of a 
contract or promife, and on two paffages of that 
author on this fubject. 

I am far from faying or thinking, that Mr 
Hume meant to weaken mens obligations to ho- 
nefty and fair dealing, or that he had not a fenfe 
of thefe obligations himfelf. It is not the man 
I impeach, but his writings. Let Us think of 
the firft as charitably as we can, while we freely 
examine the import and tendency of the laft. 

Although the nature of a contract and of a 
promife is perfectly underftood by all men of 



common underftanding ; yet, by attention to the 
operations of mind fignified by thefe words, we 
mall be better enabled to judge of the metaphy- 
fical fubtilties which have been raifed about 
them. A promife and a contract differ fo little 
in what concerns the prefent difquifition, that 
the fame reafoning (as Mr Hume jufcly obferves) 
extends to both. In a promife, one party only 
comes under the obligation, the other acquires a 
right to the preftation promifed. But we give 
the name of a contract to a tranfaction in which 
each party comes under an obligation to the 
other, and each reciprocally .acquires a right to 
what is promifed by the other. 

The Latin word paElum feems to extend to 
both ; and the definition given of it in the Civil 
Law, and borrowed from Ulpian,, is, Duo rum 
pluriumue in idem placitum confenfus. Titius, a 
modern Civilian, has endeavoured to make this 
definition more complete, by adding the words, 
Qbligationis licite conjiituendds Tel tollenda caufa 
datus. With this addition the definition is, That 
a contract is the confent of two or more perfons 
in the fame thing, given with the intention of 
conftituting or diiTblving lawfully fome obliga- 

This definition is perhaps as good as any other 
that can be given ; yet, I believe, every man 
will acknowledge, that it gives him no clearer 
or more diftinct notion of a contract than he 
had before. If it is considered a^ a flriclly lo- 

554 ESSAY v. [chap. 6. 

gical definition, I believe fome objections might 
be made to it 5 but I forbear to mention them, 
becaufe I believe that fimilar objections might 
be made to any definition of a contract that can 
be given. 

Nor can it be inferred from this, that the no- 
tion of a contract is not perfectly clear in every 
man come to years of underilanding. For this 
Is common to many operations of the mind, that 
although we underftand them perfectly, and are 
in no danger of confounding them with any 
thing elfe ; yet we cannot define them according 
to the rules of logic, by a genus and a fpecific 
difference. And when we attempt it. we rather 
darken than give light to them. 

Is there any thing more distinctly underitood 
by all men, than what it is to fee, to hear, to re- 
member, to judge ? Yet it is the moit difficult 
thing in the world to define thefe operations ac- 
cording to the rules of logical definition. But 
it is not more difficult than it is ufelefs. 

Sometimes Philofophers attempt to define 
them ; but, if we examine their definition?, we 
mall find, that they amount to no more than gi- 
ving one fynonymous word for another, and 
commonly a worfe for a better. So when we 
define a contract, by calling it a content, a ccn- 
vention, an agreement, what is this but giving a 
fynonymous word for it, and a word that is nei- 
ther more expreilive nor better underitood ; 



One boj has a top, another a fccurge ; fays 
the firft to the other, If you will lend me your 
feourge as ]ong as I can keep up my top with it, 
you (hall next have the top as long as ycu can 
keep it up. Agreed, fays the other. This is a 
contract, perfectly underticod by both parties, 
though they never heard of the definition given 
by Ulpian or by Titius. And each of them 
know?, that he is injured if the other breaks the 
bargain, and that he docs wrong if he breaks it 

The operations of the human mind may be 
divided into two ckuTes, the folitary and the fo- 
cial. As promifes and contracts belong to the 
laft clafs, it may be proper to explain this divi- 

1 call thofe operations Jblitaty, which may be 
performed by a man in foiitude, without inter- 
courfe with any other intelligent being. 

I call thofe operations fecial, which neceiTarily 
imply fecial intercourfe with fome other intelli- 
gent being who bears a part in them. 

A man may fee, and hear, and remember, and 
judge, and reafon ; he may deliberate and form 
purpoies, and execute them, without the inter- 
vention of any ether intelligent being. They 
are folitary acts. But when he aiks a queftion 
for information, when he teflifies a fact, when 
he gives a command to his fervant, when he 
makes a promife, or enters into a contract, thefe 
are focial act' r:? mind, and can have no exig- 

55 6 ESS AY V. [CHAP. 6. 

ence without the intervention of fome other in- 
telligent being, who ads a part in them. Be- 
tween the operations of the mind, which, for 
want of a more proper name, I have called Soli- 
tary, and thofe I have called facial, there is this 
very remarkable diftindiion, that, in the folita- 
ry, the expreffion of them by words, or any 
other fenfible fign, is accidental. They may ex- 
ift, and be complete, without being expreffed, 
without being known to any other perfon. But, 
in the focial operations, the expreffion is eflen- 
tial. They cannot exiit without being expref- 
fed by words or figns, and known to the other 

If nature had not made man capable of fuch 
focial operations of mind, and furniihed him 
with a language to exprefs them, he might 
think, and reafon, and deliberate, and will ; he 
might have defires and averiions, joy and for- 
row ; in a word, he might exert all thofe opera- 
tions of mind, which the writers in logic and 
pneumatology have fo copioufly defcribed ; but, 
at the fame time, he would Hill be a folitary be- 
ing, even when in a crowd ; it would be impof- 
fible for him to put a queftion, or give a com- 
mand, to afk a favour, or teftify a fact, to make 
a promife or a bargain. 

I take it to be the common opinion of Philo- 
fophers, That the focial operations of the hu- 
man mind are not fpecifically different from the 
folitary, and that they are only various modifi- 



cations or compofitions of our folitary opera- 
tions, and may be reiblved into them. 

It is, for this reafon probably, that, in enume- 
rating the operations of the mind, the folitary 
only are mentioned, and no notice at all taken 
of the focial, though they are familiar to every 
man, and have names in all languages. 

I apprehend, however, it will be found ex- 
tremely difficult, if not impoffible, to refolve our 
focial operations into any modification or com- 
pofition of the folitary: And that an attempt to 
do this, would prove as ineffectual, as the at- 
tempts that have been made to refolve all our fo- 
cial affections into the felfifh. The focial ope- 
rations appear to be as fimple in their nature as 
the folitary. They are found in every indivi- 
dual of the fpecies, even before the tife of rea- 

The power which man has of holding focial 
intercourfe with his kind, by afking and refil- 
ling, threatening and fupplicating, commanding 
and obeying, testifying and promising, muft ei- 
ther be a diltinct faculty given by our Maker, 
and a part of our conftitution, like the powers of 
feeing, and hearing, or it muft be a human in- 
vention. If men have invented this art of fo- 
cial intercourfe, it muft follow, that every indi- 
vidual of the fpecies muft have invented it for 
himfelf. It cannot be taught, for though when 
once carried to a certain pitch, it may be im- 
proved by teaching ; yet it is impoffible it can 

b c cr ! n 

55 s ESSAY v. {chap. 6. 

begin in that way, becaufe all teaching fuppofes 
a focial intercourfe and language already efta- 
blifhed between the teacher and the learner. 
This intercourfe? muft, from the very firft, be 
carried on by fenfible figns ; for the thoughts 
of other men can be difcovered in no other way. 
I think it is likewife evident, that this inter- 
courfe, in its beginning at leail, mult be carried 
on by natural figns, whofe meaning is under- 
ftood by both parties, previous to all compact or 
agreement. For there can be no compact with- 
out figns, nor without focial intercourfe. 

I apprehend, therefore, that the focial inter- 
courfe of mankind, coniifting of thole focial 
operations which I have mentioned, is the exer- 
cife of a faculty appropriated to that purpofe, 
which is the gift of God, no lefs than the pow- 
ers of feeing and hearing. And that, in order 
to carry on this intercourfe, God has given to 
man a natural language, by which his focial 
operations are exprefled, and, without which, 
the artificial languages of articulate founds, and 
of writing, could never, have been invented by 
human art. 

The figns in this natural language are looks, 
changes of the features, modulations of the 
voice, and geftures of the body. All men un- 
derftand this language without inflruction, and 
all men can ufe it in fome degree. But they 
are mod expert who ufe it moft. It makes 
a great part of the language of favages, and 



therefore they are more expert in the life of -na- 
tural figns than the civilized. 

The language of dumb perfons is mostly 
formed of natural figns ; and they are all great 
adepts in this language of nature. All that we 
call action and pronunciation, in the moil per- 
fect, orator, and the moll admired actor, is no- 
thing elfe but fuperadding the language of na- 
ture to the language of articulate founds. The 
pantomimes among the Romans carried it to the 
highest pitch of perfection. For they could act 
part of comedies and tragedies in dumb- mew, 
fo as to be underflood, not only by thofe who 
were accuflomed to this entertainment, but by 
all the flrangers that came to Rome, from all the 
corners of the earth. 

For it may be obferved of this natural lan- 
guage, (and nothing more clearly demonstrates 
it to be a part of the human constitution,) that 
although it require practice and ftudy to enable 
a man to exprefs his fentiments by it in the mod 
perfect manner; yet it requires neither ftudy 
nor practice in the fpectator to understand it. 
The- knowledge of it was before latent in the 
mind, and we no fooner fee it, than we immedi- 
ately recognife it, as we do an acquaintance 
whom we had long forgot, and could not have 
defcribed ; but no fooner do we fee him, than 
we know for certain that he is the very man. 

This knowledge, in all mankind, of the natu- 
ral figns of mens thoughts and fentiments, is 


560 2 S S A Y V. [CHAP. 6. 

indeed fo like to reminifcence, that it feems to 
have led Plato to conceive all human know- 
ledge to be of that kind. 

It is not by reafoning, that all mankind know, 
that an open countenance, and a placid eye, is a 
lign of amity ; that a contracted brow, and a 
fierce look, is the Sign of anger. It is not from 
realbn that we learn to know the natural Signs 
of confenting and refuting, of affirming and de- 
nying, of threatening and fupplicating. 

No man can perceive any neceSTary connec- 
tion between the figns of fuch operations, and 
the things fignified by them. But we are fo 
formed by the Author of our nature, that the 
operations themfelves become vifible, as it were, 
by their natural figns. This knowledge refem- 
bles reminifcence, in this refpect, that it is im- 
mediate. We form the conclusion with great 
affurance, without knowing any premifes from 
which it may be drawn by reafoning. 

It would lead us too far from the intention of 
the prefent enquiry, to confider more particular- 
ly, in what degree the focial intercourfe is natu- 
ral, and a part of our constitution ; how far it is 
of human invention. 

It is fufficient to obferve, that this intercourfe 
of human minds, by which their thoughts and 
Sentiments are exchanged, and their fouls mingle 
together as it were, is common to the whole Spe- 
cies from infancy. 



Like our other powers, its firft beginnings are 
weak, and fcarcely perceptible. Eut, it is a cer- 
tain fact, that we can perceive fome communi- 
cation of fentiments between the nurfe and her 
nu riling, before it is a month old. And I doubt 
not, but that, if both had grown out of the 
earth, and had never feen another human face, 
they would be able in a few years to converfe 

There appears indeed to be fome degree of 
focial intercourfe among brute-animals, and be- 
tween fome of them and man. A dog exults in 
the carelfes of his mailer, and is humbled at his 
difpleafure. But there are two operations of 
the focial kind, of which the brute-animals 
feem to be altogether incapable. They can nei- 
ther plight their veracity by teilimony, nor 
their fidelity by any engagement or promife. If 
nature had made them capable of thefe opera- 
tions, they would have had a language to ex- 
prefs them by, as man has : But of this we fee- 
no appearance. 

A fox is faid to ufe ftratagems, but he cannot 
lie ; becaufe he cannot give his tefumony, or 
plight his veracity. A dog is faid to be faithful 
to his matter ; but no more is meant but that he 
is affectionate, for he never came under any en- 
gagement. I fee no evidence that any brute- 
animal is capable of either giving teftimony, or 
making a promife. 

Vol. III. N n A 

<6i ESSAY V. [chap. 6. 

A dumb man cannot fpeak any more than a 
fox or a dog ; but he can give his teftimony by 
jfigns as early in life as other men can do by 
words. He knows what a lie is as early as other 
men, and hates it as much. He can plight his 
faith, and is fenfible of the obligation of a pro- 
mife or contract. 

It is therefore a prerogative of man, that he 
can communicate his knowledge of facts by te- 
ftimony, and enter into engagements by promife 
or contract. God has given him thefe powers 
by a part of his conftitution, which diftinguiihes 
him from all brute-animals. And whether they 
are original powers, or refolvable into other ori- 
ginal powers, it is evident that they fpring up in 
the human mind at an early period of life, and 
are found in every individual of the fpecies, 
whether favage or civilized. 

Thefe prerogative powers of man, like all his 
other powers, mull be given for fome end, and 
for a good end. And if we confider a little far- 
ther the oeconomy of nature, in relation to this 
part of the human conftitution, we fhall perceive 
the wifdorn of Nature in the ftru&ure of it, and 
difcover clearly our duty in confequence of it. 

It is evident, in the firjl place, that if no cre- 
dit was given to teftimony, if there was no reli- 
ance upon promifes, they would anfvver no end 
at all, not even that of deceiving. 

Secondly, Suppoling men difpofed by fome 
principle in their nature to rely on declarations 



and promifes ; yet if men found in experience, 
that there was no fidelity on the other part in 
making and in keeping them, no man of com- 
mon underftanding would truft to them, and fo 
they would become ufelefs. 

Hence it appears, thirdly, That this power of 
giving teftimony, and of promifing, can anfwer 
no end in fociety, unlefs there be a confiderable 
degree, both of fidelity on the one part, and of 
truft on the otheT. Thefe two muft ftand or fall- 
together, and one of them cannot poilibly fubfift 
without the other. 

Fourthly, It may be obferved, that fidelity in 
declarations and promifes, and its counter-part, 
truft and reliance upon them, form a fyftem of 
focial intercourfe, the moft amiable, the mo ft 
ufeful, that can be among men. Without fide- 
lity and truft, there can be no human fociety. 
There never was a fociety, even of favages, nay 
even of robbers or pirates, in which there was 
not a great degree of veracity and of fidelity 
among themfelves. Without it man would be 
the moft diflbcial animal that God has made. 
His ftate would be in reality what Hobbes 
conceived the ftate of nature to be, a ftate of 
war of every man again ft every man ; nor could 
this war ever terminate id peace. 

It may be obferved, in the fifth place, that 

man is evidently made for living in fociety. Kis 

focial affections fh-ew this as evidently, as that 

the eye was made for feeing. His focial opera- 

N n 2 tions, 

564 ESSAY V. [fl-HAP. £L 

tions, particularly thofe of certifying and promi- 
iing, make it no lefs evident. 

From thefe observations it follows, that if no 
provifion were made by nature, to engage men 
to fidelity in declarations and promifes, human 
nature would be a contradiction to itfelf, made 
for an end, yet without the necefTary means of 
attaining it. As if the fpecies had been fur- 
nifhed with good eyes, but without the power of 
opening their eye-lids. There are no blunders 
of this kind in. the works of God. Wherever 
there is an end intended, the means are admira- 
bly fitted for the attainment of it , and fo we 
find it to be in the cafe before us. 

For we fee that children, as foon as they are 
capable of underftanding declarations and pro- 
mifes, are led by their conftitution to rely upon 
them. They are no lefs led by conftitution to 
veraeity and candour, on their own part. Nor 
do they ever deviate from this road of truth and 
fihcerity, until corrupted by bad example and 
bad company. This difpofition to iincerity in 
themfelves, and to give credit to others, whether 
we call it in/li?iel, or whatever name we give it, 
niuft be conlldered as the effect of their confti- 

So that the things effential to human fociety, 
I mean good faith on the one part, and truft on 
the other, are formed by nature in the minds of 
children, before they are capable of knowing 



their utility, or being influenced by coniidera- 
tions either of duty or intereft. 

When we grow up fo far as to have the con- 
ception of a right and a wrong in conduct., the 
turpitude of lying, falfehood, and difhonefty, is 
difcerned, not by any train of reafoning, but by 
an immediate perception. For we fee that eve- 
ry man difapproves it in others, even thofe who 
are confcious of it in themfelves. 

Every man thinks himfelf injured and ill ufed, 
and feels refentment, when he is impofed upon 
by it. Every man takes it fas a reproach when 
falfehood is imputed to him. Thefe are the 
cleareft evidences, that all men difapprove of 
falfehood, when their judgment is not biaffed. 

I know of no evidence that has been given of 
any nation fo rude, as not to have thefe fenti- 
ments. It is certain that dumb people have 
them, and difcover them about the fame period 
of life, in which they appear in thole who fpeak. 
And it may reafonably be thought, that dumb 
perfons, at that time of life, have had as little 
advantage, with regard to morals, from their 
education, as the greater! lavages. 

Every man come to years of reflexion, when 
he pledges his veracity or fidelity, thinks he has 
a right to be credited, and is affronted if he is 
not. But there cannot be a fha'dow of right to 
be credited, unlefs there be an obligation to good 
faith. For right on one hand, necelTarily im- 
plies obligation on the other. 

N n 3 When 

566 s S S A Y v. [chap. 6, 

When we fee that in the moil favage ftate, 
that ever was known of the human race, men 
have always lived in focieties greater or lefs, this 
of itfelf is a proof from fact, that they have had 
that fenfe of their obligation to fidelity, without 
which no human fociety can fubfift. 

From thefe obfervations, I think, it appears 
very evident, that as fidelity on one part, and 
tiuft on the other, are effential to that intercourfe 
of men, which we call human fociety ; fo the 
Author of our nature has made wife provifion 
for perpetuating them among men, in that de- 
gree that is neceflary to human fociety, in all 
the different periods of human life, and in all 
the ftages of human improvement and degene- 

In early years we have an innate difpofition 
to them. In riper years, we feel our 4 obligation 
to fidelity as much as to any moral duty what- 

Nor is it neceffary to mention the collateral 
inducements to this virtue, from considerations 
of prudence, which are obvious to every man 
that reflects. Such as, that it creates truft, the 
moli effectual engine of human power ; that it 
requires no artifice or concealment ; dreads no 
detection ; that it infpires courage and magna- 
nimity, and is the natural ally of every virtue ; 
fo that there is no virtue whatfoever, to which 
cur natural obligation appears more ftrong or 
more apparent. 



An obfervation or two, with regard to the na- 
ture of a contract, will be fufficient for the pre- 
fent purpofe. 

It is obvious that the preftation promifed mud 
be underftood by both parties. One party en- 
gages to do fuch a thing, another accepts of this 
engagement. An engagement to do, one does 
not know what^ can neither be made nor ac- 
cepted. It is no lefs obvious, that a contract, is 
a voluntary tranfaction. 

But it ought to be obferved, that the will, 
which is eifential to a contract, is only a will to 
engage, or to become bound. We mud beware 
of confounding this will, with a will to perform 
what we have engaged. The lafl can lignify 
nothing elfe than an intention and fixed purpofe 
to do what we have engaged to do. The will 
to become bound, and to confer a right upon 
the other party, is indeed the very eflence of a 
contract ; but the purpofe of fulfilling our en- 
gagement, is no part of the contract at all. 

A purpofe is a folitary act of mind, which lays 
no obligation on the perfon, nor confers any 
right on another. A fraudulent perfon may 
contract with a fixed purpofe of not performing 
his engagement. But this purpofe makes no 
change with regard to his obligation. He is as 
much bound as the honefl man, who contracts 
with a fixed purpofe of performing. 

As the contract is binding without any regard 
to the purpofe, fo there may be a purpofe with- 
out any contract. A purpofe is no contract, even 
N n 4 when 

568 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 6. 

when it is declared to the perfon for whofe be- 
nefit it is intended. I may fay to a man, I in- 
tend to do fuch a thing for your benefit, but I 
come under no engagement. Every 'ihan under r 
itands the meaning of this fpeech, and fees no 
contradiction in it : Whereas, if a purpofe de- 
clared were the fame thing with a contract, fuch 
a fpeech would be a contradiction, and would 
be the fame as if one fhould fay, I promife to do 
fuch a thing, but I do not promife. 

All this is fo plain to every man of common 
fenfe, that it would have been unnecefiary to be 
mentioned, had not fo acute a man as Mr Hume 
grounded fome of the contradictions he finds in 
a contract, upon confounding a will to engage 
in a contract with a will or purpofe to perform 
the engagement. 

I come now to confider the fpeculations of 
that Author with regard to contracts. 

In order to fupport a favourite notion of his 
own, That juftice is not a natural but an artifi- 
cial virtue, and that it derives its whole merit 
from its utility, he has laid down fome princi- 
ples which, I think, have a tendency to fubvert 
all faith and fair-dealing among mankind. 

In the third volume of the Treatife of Human 
Nature, p. 40. he lays it down as an undoubted 
maxim, That no action can be virtuous or mo- 
rally good, unlefs there be, in human nature, 
fome motive to produce it, diilinct from its mo- 
lality. Let us apply this undoubted maxim in 

.'■. : an 


an inftance or two. If a man keeps his word, 
from this fole motive, that he ought to do fo, 
this is no virtuous or morally good action. If a 
man pays his debt, from this motive, that juftice 
requires this of him, this is no virtuous or mo- 
rally good action. If a judge or an arbiter gives 
a fentence in a caufe, from no other motive but 
regard to juftice, this is no virtuous or morally 
good action. Thefe appear to me to be mock- 
ing abfurdities, which no metaphyfical fubtilty 
can ever juftify. 

Nothing is more evident than that every hu- 
man action takes its denomination and its moral 
nature from the motive from which it is per- 
formed. That is a benevolent a&ion, which is 
done from benevolence. That is an a£t of gra- 
titude, which is done from a fentiment of grati- 
tude. That is an act: of obedience to God, 
which is done from a regard to his command. 
And, in general, ithat is an act of virtue which 
is done from a regard to virtue. 

Virtuous actions are fo far from needing other 
motives, beildes their being virtuous, to give 
them merit, that their merit is then greateft and 
mod confpicuous, when every motive that can 
foe'put in the oppofite fcale is outweighed by the 
fole consideration of their being our duty. 

This maxim, therefore, of Mr Hume, That 
no action can be virtuous or morally good, un- 
lefs there be fome motive to produce it diilinct 
from its morality, is fo far from being undoubt- 



edly true, that it is undoubtedly falfe. It was 
never, fo far as I know, maintained by any mo- 
ralift, but by the Epicureans ; and it favours of 
the very dregs of that feci. It agrees well with 
the principles of thofe who maintained, that vir- 
tue is an empty name, and that it is entitled to 
no regard, but in as far as it minifters to plea- 
fure or profit. 

I believe the author of this maxim acted up- 
on better moral principles than he wrote ; and 
that what Cicero fays of Epicurus, may be ap- 
plied to him : Redarguitur ipfe a fefe, vincuntur- 
que fcripta ejus probitate ip/ius et moribus, et ut 
alii exijlimantur dicere melius quamfacere,Jic ille 
mihi videtur facer e melius quam dicere. 

But let us fee how he applies this maxim to 
contracts. I give you his words from the place 
formerly cited. " I fuppofe," fays he, " a perfon 
" to have lent me a fum of money, on condition 
" that it be reftored in a few days ; and, after 
" the expiration of the term agreed on, he de- 
" mands the fum. I aik, what reafon or motive 
" have I to reftore the money ? It will perhaps 
" be faid, that my regard to juftice and abhor- 
" rence of villany and knavery, are fufficient 
"- reafons for me, if I have the leaft grain of ho- 
" nefcy, or fenfe of duty and obligation. And 
" this anfwer, no doubt, is juft and fatisfaclory 
'* to man in his civilized ftate, and when train- 
" ed up according to a certain difcipline and 
•' education. But, in his rude and more natural 

" condition, 


" condition, if you are pleafed to call fuch a 
i( condition natural, this anfwer would be re- 
" jected as perfectly unintelligible and fophifti- 
« cal." 

The doctrine we are taught in this paffage is 
this, That though a man, in a civilized ftate, 
and when trained up according to a certain dis- 
cipline and education, may have a regard to 
juftice, and an abhorrence of villany and knave- 
ry, and fome fenfe of duty and obligation *, yet 
to a man in his rude and more natural condition, 
the confiderations of honefty, juftice, duty and 
obligation, will be perfectly unintelligible and 
fophiftical. And this is brought as an ar- 
gument to fhew, that juftice is not a natural but 
an artificial virtue. 

I mall offer fome obfervations on this argu- 

1. Although it may be true, that what is un- 
intelligible to man in his rude ftate may be in- 
telligible to him in his civilized ftate, I cannot 
conceive, that what is fophiftical in the rude 
ftate fhould change its nature, and become jull 
reafoning, when man is more improved. What 
is a fophifm, will always be fo ; nor can any 
change in the ftate of the perfon who judges, 
make that to be juft reafoning which before was 
fophiftical. Mr Hume's argument requires, 
that to man in his rude ftate, the motives to juf- 
tice and honefty fhould not only appear to be 
fophiftical, but mould really be fo. If the mo- 

57- essay v. [chap. 6. 

tives were juft in themfelves, then juftice would 
be a natural virtue, although the rude man, by 
an error of his judgment, thought other wife. 
But if juftice be not a natural virtue, which is 
the point Mr Hume intends to prove, then every 
argument, by which man in his natural ftate 
may be urged to it, mult be a fophifm in reality, 
and not in appearance only; and the effect of 
difcipline and education in the civilized ftate 
can only be to make thofe motives to juftice ap- 
pear juft and fatisfadtory, which, in their own 
nature, are fophiftical. 

2. It were to be wifhed, that this ingenious 
Author had fhewn us, why that ftate of man, in 
which the obligation to honefty, and an abhor- 
rence of villany, appear perfectly unintelligible 
and fophiftical, fhould be his more natural Jiate. 

It is the nature of human fociety to be pro- 
greflive, as much as it is the nature of the indi- 
vidual. In the individual, the ftate of infancy 
leads to that of childhood, childhood to youth, 
youth to manhood, and manhood to old age. If 
one fhould fay, that the ftate of infancy is a more 
natural ftate than that of manhood or of old age, 
I 'am apt to think, that this would be words 
without any meaning. In like manner, in hu- 
man fociety, there is a natural progrefs from 
rudeneis to civilization, from ignorance to know- 
ledge. What period of this progrefs Ihall we 
call man's natural ftate ? To me they appear all 
equally natural. Every ftate of fociety is equal- 


ly natural, wherein men have accefs to exert 
their natural powers about their proper objects, 
and to improve thofe powers by the means which 
their fituation affords. 

Mr Hume, indeed, (hews fome timidity in af- 
firming the rude Hate to be the more natural 
flate of man ; and, therefore, adds this qualify- 
ing parenthefis, If you are phafoci to eallfuch a 
condition natural. 

But it ought to be obferved, That if the pre- 
mifes of his argument be weakened by this 
claufe, the fame weaknefs mult be communica- 
ted to the conclufion ; and the concluiion, ac- 
cording to the rules of good reafoning, ought to 
be, That juftice is an artificial virtue, if you be 
pleafed to call it artificial. 
' 3. It were likewife to be wilhed, that Mr 
Hume had fhewn from fact, that there ever did 
exift fuch a ftate of man as that which he calls 
his more natural ftate. It is a ftate wherein a 
man borrows a fum of money, on the condition 
that he is to reftore it in a few days ; yet when 
the time of payment comes, his obligation to 
repay what he borrowed is perfectly unintelli- 
gible and fophiftical. It would have been pro- 
per to have given at lead a finglc inftance of 
fome tribe of the human race that was found to 
be in this natural ftate. If no fach inftance can 
be given, it is probably a ftate merely imagin- 
ary j like that ftate, which fome have imagined, 


574 ESSAY v. [chap. 6. 

wherein men were Our cm Outangs> or wherein 
they were filhes with tails. 

Indeed, fuch a Hate feems impoffible. That 
a man mould lend without any conception of 
his having a right to be repaid ; or that a man 
ihould borrow on the condition of paying in a 
few days, and yet have no conception of his ob- 
ligation, feems to me to involve a contradiction. 

I grant, that a humane man may lend without 
any expectation of being repaid ; but that he 
ihould lend without any conception of a right to 
be repaid, is a contradiction. In like manner, a 
fraudulent man may borrow without an inten- 
tion of paying back ; but that he fhould borrow,, 
while an obligation to repay is perfectly unin- 
telligible to him, this is a contradiction. 

The fame author, in his Enquiry into the 
Principles of Morals, feet. 3. treating of the fame 
fubject, has the following note : 

" 'Tis evident, that the will or confent alone 
*f never transfers property, nor caufes the obli- 
" gation of a promife, (for the fame reafoning 
" extends to both) but the will muft be ex- 
" prefled by words or figns, in order to impofe a 
" tie upon any man. The expreffion being 
" once brought in as fubfervient to the will, 
" foon becomes the principal part of the pro- 
" mife ; nor will a man be lefs bound by his 
" word, though he fecretly give a different di- 
•' rection to his intention, and with-hold the 
" alfent of his mind. But though the expreffion 

" makes, 


'■' makes, on moll occafions, the whole of the 
H promife ; yet it does not always fo ; and one 
" who mould make ufe of any expreiTion, of 
" which he knows not the meaning, and which 
" he ufes without any fenfe of the confequences, 
!* would not certainly be bound by it. Nay^, 
*' though he know its meaning ; yet if he ufes 
" it in jeft only, and with fuch- ligns as Chew 
ti evidently he has no ferious intention of bind- 
" ing himfelf, he would not be under any obli- 
" gation of performance ; but it is necelfary 
" that the words be a perfect expreflion of the 
** will, without any contrary figns. Nay, even 
" this we mud not carry fo far as to imagine, 
*£ that one whom, from our quicknefs of under- 
" Handing, we conjecture to have an intention 
" of deceiving us, is not bound by his expreffion 
" or verbal promife, if we accept of it, but muft 
" limit this conclulion to thofe cafes, where the 
" figns are of a different nature from thofe of 
" deceit. All thefe contradictions are eaiily ac- 
** counted for, if juftice arifes entirely from its 
" ufefulnefs to fociety, but will never be ex- 
*' plained on any other hypothec's." 

Here we have the opinion of this grave mo- 
ralift and acute metaphyiickui, that the princi- 
ples of honefty and fidelity are at bottom a bun- 
dle of contradictions. This is one part of his 
moral fyftem which, I cannot he]p thinking, 
borders upon licentioufnefs. It fureiy tends to 
give a very unfavourable notion of that cardinal 


5?6 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 6. 

virtue, without which no man has a title to be 
called an honeft man. What regard can a man 
pay to the virtue of fidelity, who believes that 
its effential rules contradict each other ? Can a 
man be bound by contradictory rules of con- 
duel ? No more, furely, than he can be bound 
to believe contradictory principles. 

He tells us, " That all thefe contradictions 
" are eafily accounted for, if juftice arifes en- 
" tirely from its ufefulnefs to fociety, but will 
" never be explained upon any other hypothe- 
" lis." 

I know not indeed what is meant by account- 
ing for contradictions, or explaining them. I 
apprehend, that no hypotheiis can make that 
which is a contradiction to be no contradiction. 
However, without attempting to account for 
thefe contradictions upon his own iiypothefis, he 
pronounces, in a decilive tone, that they will 
never be explained upon any other hypothefis. 

What if it fhall appear, that the contradictions 
mentioned in this paragraph, do all take their 
rife from two capital miftakes the author has 
made with regard to the nature of promifes and 
contracts ; and if, when thefe are corrected, 
there fhall not appear a fhadovv of contradiction 
in the cafes put by him ? 

The firft miftake is, That a promife is fome 
kind of will, confent or intention, which may be 
exprefled, or may not be exprelfed. This is to 
miftake the nature of a promife : For no will, 



rio confent or intention that is not expreffed, is a 
promife. A promife, being a focial tranfacTion 
between two parties, without being expreffed 
can have no exiftence. 

Another capital miftake that runs through the 
paflage cited is, That this will, confent or in- 
tention, which makes a promife, is a will or in- 
tention to perform what we promife. Every 
man knows that there may be a fraudulent pro- 
mife, made without intention of performing, 
But the intention to perform the promife, or not 
to perform it, whether the intention be known 
to the other party or not, makes no part of the 
promife, it is a folitary aft of the mind, and can 
neither conftitute nor diffblve an obligation. 
What makes a promife is, that it be expreffed 
to the other party with underftanding, and with 
an intention to become bound, and that it be ac- 
cepted by him. 

Carrying thefe remarks along with us, let us 
review the paffage cited. 

Firfl, He obferves, that the will or confent 
alone does not caufe the obligation of a promife, 
but it muft be expreffed. 

I anfwer : The will not expreffed is not a 
promife ; and is it a contradiction that that 
which is not a promife ihouid not caufe the ob- 
ligation of a promife ? He goes on : The expref- 
fion being once brought in as fubfervient to the 
will, foon becomes a principal part of the pro- 
mife. Here it is fuppofed, that the expreffion 

Vol. III. O * — Was 

57 s essay V- [chap. 6, 

was not originally a conflituent part of the pro- 
mife, but it foon becomes fuch. It is brought in 
to aid and be fubfervient to the promife which 
was made before by the will. If Mr Hume had 
confidered, that it is the expreffion accompanied 
with understanding and will to become bound, 
that conltitutes a promife, he would never have 
faid, that the expreffion foon becomes a part, 
and is brought in as fubfervient. 

He adds, Nor will a man be lefs bound by his 
word, though he fecretly gives a different direc- 
tion to his intention, and with-holds the alfent 
of his mind. 

The cafe here put needs fome explication. 
Either it means, that the man knowingly and 
voluntarily gives his word, without any inten- 
tion of giving his word, or that he gives it with- 
out the intention of keeping it, and performing 
what he promifes. The laft of thefe is indeed 
a poffible cafe, and is, I apprehend, what Mr 
Hume means. But the intention of keeping his 
promife is no part of the promife, nor does it in 
the lea ft affed the obligation of it, as we have 
often obferved. 

If the Author meant that the man may know- 
ingly and voluntarily give his word, without the 
intention of giving his word, this is impoffible : 
For fuch is the nature of all focial a6ls of the 
mind, that, as they cannot be without being ex- 
prelfed, fo they cannot be expreffed knowingly 
and willingly, but they muft be. If a man puts 



ft queflion knowingly and willingly, it is impof- 
fible that lie fhould at the fame time will not to 
put it. If he gives a command knowingly and 
willingly, it is impoffible that he mould at the 
fame time will not to give it. We cannot have 
contrary wills at the fame time. And, in like 
manner, if a man knowingly and willingly be- 
comes bound by a promife, it is impoffible that 
he fhould at the fame time will not to be 

To fuppofe, therefore, that when a man 
knowingly and willingly gives his word, he 
with-holds that will and intention which makes 
a promife, is indeed a contradiction ; but the 
contradiction is not in the nature of the promife, 
but in the cafe fuppofed by Mr Hume. 

He adds, though the expreffion, for the moft 
$>art, makes the whole of the promife, it does not 
always fo. 

I anfwer, That the expreffion, if it is not ac- 
companied with understanding, and will to en- 
gage, never makes a promife. The Author 
here affiimes a poftulate, which nobody ever 
granted, and which can only be grounded on 
the impoffible fuppofition made in the former 
fentence. And as there can be no promife with- 
out knowledge, and will to engage, is it marvel- 
lous that words which arc not uhderflood, or 
words fpoken in jell, and without any irit ntion 
to become bound, fhould not have the effect of a 
prc-mife ? 

O s The 

580 E S S A Y V. [CHAP. 7, 

The laft cafe put by Mr Hume, is that of a 
man who promifes fraudulently with an inten- 
tion not to perform, and whofe fraudulent inten- 
tion is difcovered by the other party, who, not- 
withftanding, accepts the promife. He is bound, 
fays Mr Hume, by his verbal promife. Un- 
doubtedly he is bound, becaufe an intention not 
to perform the promife, whether known to the 
other party or not, makes no part of the promife, 
nor affects its obligation, as has been repeatedly 

From what has been faid, I think it evident, 
that to one who attends to the nature of a pro- 
mife or contract, there is not the leaft appear- 
ance of contradiction in the principles of mora- 
lity relating to contracts. 

It would indeed appear wonderful, that fuch 
a man as Mr Hume mould have impofed upon 
himfelf in fo plain a matter, if we djd not fee 
frequent inftances of ingenious men, whofe zeal 
in fupporting a favourite hypothecs, darkens 
their underftanding, and hinders them from fee- 
ing what is before their eyes. 


That moral approbation implies a real Judgment. 

THE approbation of good actions, and dis- 
approbation of bad, are fo familiar to eve- 
ry man come to years of underftanding, that it 



feems ftrange there mould be any difpute about 
their nature. 

Whether we reflect, upon our own conduct, 
or attend to the conduct, of others with whom 
we live, or of whom we hear or read, we can- 
not help approving of fome things, difapproving 
of others, and regarding many with perfect in- 

Thefe operations of our minds we are confci- 
ous of every day, and almoft every hour we live. 
Men of ripe underftanding are capable of re- 
flecting upon them, and of attending to what 
pafles in their own thoughts on fuch occafions ; 
yet, for half a century, it has been a ferious 
difpute among Philofophers, what this approba- 
tion and difapprobation is, Whether there be a 
real judgment included in it, which, like all 
other judgments, muft be true or falfe; or, 
Whether it include no more but fome agreeable 
or uneafy feeling, in the perfon who approves or 

Mr Hume obferves very juftly, that this is a 
controverfyy/flr/<f^/ of late. Before the modern 
fyftem of ideas and impreffions was introduced, 
nothing would have appeared more abfurd than 
to fay, That when I condemn a man for what 
he has done, I pafs no judgment at all about 
the man, but only exprefs fome uneafy feeling 
in myfelf. 

Nor did the new fyftem produce this difcove- 

ry at once, but gradually, by feveral fteps, ac~ 

O o 3 cording 

582 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 7, 

cording as its confequences were more accurate- 
ly traced, and its fpirit more thoroughly imbi- 
bed by fucceflive Philofophers. 

Des Capites and Mr Locke went no farther 
than to maintain, that the feeondary qualities of 
body, heat and cold, found, colour, tafte and 
fmell, which we perceive and judge to be in the 
external object, are mere feelings or fenfations 
in our minds, there being nothing in bodies 
themfelves to which thefe names can be appli- 
ed ; and that the office of the external fenfes is. 
not to judge of external things, but only to give 
us ideas or fenfations, from which we are by rea*- 
foiling to deduce the exiftence of a material 
world without us, as well as we can. 

Arthur Collier and Bifhop Berkeley dif- 
covered, fpom the fame principles, that the pri- 
mary, as well as the feeondary, qualities of bo- 
dies, fuch as extenlion, figure, folidity, motion, 
are only fenfations in our minds ; and therefore,, 
that there is no material world without us 
at all. 

The fame philofophy, when it came to be ap- 
plied to matters of tafte, difcovered that beauty 
and deformity are riot any thing in the objedls, 
to which men, from the beginning of the world, 
afcribed them, but certain feelings in the mind 
of the fpeclator. 

The next ftep was an eafy confequence fro#i 
all the preceding, that moral approbation and 
$ifapprobation are not judgments, which muft 



be true or falfe, but barely, agreeable and unea- 
fy feelings or fenfations. 

Mr Hume made the laft ftep in this progrefs, 
and crowned the fyftem by what he calls his 
hypothejis, to wit, That belief is more properly 
an act of the fenirtive, than of the cogitative 
part of our nature. 

Beyond this I think no man can go in this 
track ; fenfation or feeling is all, and what is 
left to the cogitative part of our nature, I am not 
able to comprehend. 

I have had occafion to confider each of thefe 
paradoxes, excepting that which relates to mo- 
rals, in EJfays on the Intellectual Towers of 
Man ; and, though they be ftrictly connected 
with each other, and with the fyftem which has 
produced them, I have attempted to fhew, that 
they are inconfiftent with juft notions of our in- 
tellectual powers, no lefs than they are with the 
common fenfe and common language of man- 
kind. And this, I think, will like wife appear 
with regard to the conclufion relating to morals, 
to wit, That moral approbation is only an agree- 
able feeling, and not a real judgment. 

To prevent ambiguity as much as poffible, let 
us attend to the meaning of feeling and of judg- 
ment. Thefe operations of the mind, perhaps, 
cannot be logically defined ; but they are well 
underftood, and eafily diftinguifhed, by their 
properties and adjuncts. 

O o 4 Feeling, 

584 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 7. 

Feeling, or fenfation, feems to be the loweft 
degree of animation we can conceive. We give 
the name of animal to every being that feels pain 
or pleafure ; and this feems to be the boundary 
between the inanimate and animal creation. 

We know no being of fo low a rank in the 
creation of God, as to poffefs this animal power 
only without any other. 

We commonly diftinguifh feeling from think- 
ing, becaufe it hardly deferves the name ; and 
though it be, in a more general fenfe, a fpecies 
of thought, is leaft removed from the paflive and 
inert ftate of things inanimate. 

A feeling mull be agreeable, or uneafy, or in- 
different. It may be weak or ftrong. It is ex- 
prefTed in language either by a iingle word, or 
by fuch a contexture of words as may be the 
fubject or predicate of a proportion, but fuch 
as cannot by themfelves make a proportion. 
For it implies neither affirmation nor negation ; 
and therefore cannot have the qualities of true 
or falfe, which diftinguifh proportions from all 
other forms of fpeech, and judgments from all 
other acts of the mind. 

That I have fuch a feeling, is indeed an affir- 
mative propofition, and expreffes teftimony 
grounded upon an intuitive judgment. But the 
feeling is only one term of this proportion ; and 
it can only make a proportion when joined 
with another term, by a verb affirming or de- 



As feeling diftinguifhes the animal nature 
from the inanimate ; fo judging feems to diftin- 
guifh the rational nature from the merely ani- 

Though judgment in general is exprefled by 
one word in language, as the mofl complex ope- 
rations of the mind may be ; yet a particular 
judgment can only be exprefled by a fentence, 
and by that kind of fentence which Logicians 
call a propofition, in which there mull neceflari- 
ly be a verb in the indicative mood, either ex- 
prefled or underitood. 

Every judgment mull neceflarily be true or 
falfe, and the fame may be faid of the propofi- 
tion which exprefles it. It is a determination 
of the underftanding, with regard to what is 
true, or falfe, or dubious. 

In judgment, we can diltinguilh the objecl: 
about which we judge, from the act of the mind 
in judging of that objecl. In mere feeling there 
is no fuch diftin&ian. The objecl: of judgment 
mull be exprefled by a propolition ; and belief, 
difbelief or doubt, always accompanies the judg- 
ment we form. If we judge the proportion to 
be true, we mull believe it ; if we judge it to be 
falfe, we muft difbelieve it ; and if we be un- 
certain whether it be true or falfe, we mull 

The toothach, the headach, are words which 
exprefs uneafy feelings • but to fay that they ex- 
prefs a judgment would be ridiculous. 


586 ESSAY v, [chap. 7, 

That the fun is greater than the earth, is a pro- 
portion, and therefore the object of judgment ; 
and when affirmed or denied, believed or diibe- 
lieved, or doubted, it exprefTes judgment ; but 
to fay that it exprefTes only a feeling in the mind 
of him that believes it, would be ridiculous. 

Thefe two operations of mind, when we con- 
sider them Separately, are very different, and 
eafily diftinguifhed. When we feel without 
judging, or judge without feeling, it is impof- 
fible, without very grofs inattention, to miftake 
the one for the other. 

But in many operations of the mind, both are 
infeparably conjoined under one name ; and 
when we are not aware that the operation is 
complex, we may take one ingredient to be the 
whole, and overlook the other. 

In former ages, that moral power, by which 
human actions ought to be regulated, was call- 
ed reafon, and considered both by Philofophers, 
and by the vulgar, as the power of judging what 
we ought, and what we ought not to do. 

This is very fully expreffed by Mr Hume, in 
hisTreatife of Human Nature, Book II. Part III. 
§ 3. f Nothing is more ufual in philofophy, 
" and even in common life, than to talk of the 
" combat of paffion and reafon, to give the pre- 
" ference to reafon, and aiTert that men are on- 
*' ly fo far virtuous as they conform themfelves 
" to its dictates. Every rational creature, 'tis 
" faid, is obliged to regulate his actions by rea- 

" ion ; 


" fon ; and if any other motive or principle 
" challenge the direction of his conduct, he 
" ought to oppofe it, till it be entirely fubdued, 
" or, at leaft, brought to a conformity to that 
*'. fuperior principle. On this method of think- 
" ing, the greater!: part of moral philofophy, an- 
" cient and modern, feems to be founded." 

That thofe Philofophers attended chiefly to 
the judging power of our moral faculty, appears 
from the names they gave to its operations, and 
from the whole of their language concerning it. 

The modern philofophy has led men to at- 
tend chiefly to their fenfations and feelings, and 
thereby to refolve into mere feeling, complex 
acts of the mind, of which feeling is only one in- 

I had occafion, in the preceding EfTays, to ob- 
ferve, That feveral operations of the mind, to 
which we give one name, and confider as one 
act, are compounded of more Ample acts, infe- 
parably united in our conftitution, and that in 
thefe, fenfation or feeling often makes one in-r 

Thus the appetites of hunger and thirft are 
compounded of an uneafy fenfation, and the de- 
fire of food or drink. In our benevolent affec- 
tions, there is both an agreeable feeling, and a 
defire of happinefs to the object of our affection; 
and malevolent affections have ingredients of a 
contrary nature. 


538 essay v. [chap. 7, 

In thefe inftances, fenfation or feeling is infe- 
parably conjoined with defire. In other in- 
ftances, we find fenfation infeparably conjoined 
with judgment or belief, and that in two diffe- 
rent ways. In fome inftances, the judgment or 
belief feems to be the confequence of the fenfa- 
tion, and to be regulated by it. In other in- 
ftances, the fenfation is the confequence of the 

When we perceive an external object by our 
fenies, we have a fenfation conjoined with a firm 
belief of the exiftence and fenfible qualities of 
the external object. Nor has all the fubtilty of 
metaphyiics been able to disjoin what nature has 
conjoined in our conftitution. Des Cartes 
and Locke endeavoured, by reafoning, to de- 
duce the exiftence of external objects from our 
fenfations, but in vain. Subfequent Philofo- 
phers, finding no reafon for this connection, en- 
deavoured to throw off the belief of external 
objects as being unreaibnable ; but this attempt 
is no lefs vain. Nature has doomed us to be- 
lieve the teftimony of our fenfes, whether we 
can give a good reafon for doing fo or not. 

In this inflance, the belief or judgment is the 
confequence of the fenfation. as the fenfation is 
the confequence of the impreffijn made on the 
organ of fenfe. 

But in molt of the operations of mind in 
which judgment or belief is combined with feel- 


ing, the feeling is the confequence of the judg- 
ment, and is regulated by it. 

Thus, an account of the good conduct of a 
friend at a diftance gives me a very agreeable 
feeling, and a contrary account would give me 
a very uneafy feeling ; but thefe feelings depend 
entirely upon my belief of the report. 

In hope, there is an agreeable feeling, de- 
pending upon the belief or expectation of good 
to come : Fear is made up of contrary ingredi- 
ents 5 in both, the feeling is regulated by the 
degree of belief. 

In the refpect we bear to the worthy, and in 
our contempt of the worthlefs, there is both 
judgment and feeling, and the laft depends en- 
tirely upon the firft. 

The fame may be faid of gratitude for good 
offices, and refentment of injuries. 

Let me now conlider how I am affected when 
I fee a man exerting himfelf nobly in a good 
caufe. I am confcious that the effect of his con- 
duct on my mind is complex, though it may 
be called by one name. I look up to his virtue, 
I approve, I admire it. In doing fo, I have 
pleafure indeed, or an agreeable feeling ; this is 
granted. But I find myfelf interefled in his 
fuccefs and in his fame. This is affection ; it is 
love and eileem, which is more than mere feel- 
ing. The man is the object of this efteem ; but 
in mere feeling there is no object. 


59^ essa^ v. ['chap. 5V 

I am likewife confcious, that this agreeable 
feeling in me, and this efteem of him, depend 
entirely upon the judgment I form of his con- 
duct. I judge that this conduct merits efteem ;' 
and, while I thus judge, I cannot but efteem 
him, and contemplate his conduct with pleafure. 
Perfuade me that he was bribed, or that he act- 
ed from fome mercenary or bad motive, imme- 
diately my efteem and my agreeable feeling va~ 

In the approbation of a good action, there-' 
fore, there is feeling indeed, but there is alfo 
efteem of the agent ; and both the feeling and 
the efteem depend upon the judgment we form 
of his conduct. 

When I exercife my moral faculty about my 
own actions or thofe of other men, I am confci- 
ous that I judge as well as feel. I accufe and 
excufe, I acquit and condemn, I aftent and dif« 
fent, I believe and difbelieve, and doubt. Thefe 
are acts of judgment, and not feelings. 

Every determination of the understanding, 
with regard to what is true or falfe, is judg- 
ment. That I ought not to fteal, or to kill, or 
to bear falfe witnefs, are proportions, of the 
truth of which I am as well convinced as of any 
proposition in Euclid. I am confcious that I 
judge them to be true propofitions ; and my 
confcioufnefs makes all other arguments mine- 
ceifary,. with regard to the operations of my own 



That other men judge, as well as feel, in fuck 
cafes, I am convinced, becaufe they underftand 
me when I exprefs my moral judgment, and ex- 
prefs theirs by the fame terms and phrafes. 

Suppofe that, in a cafe well known to both, 
my friend fays, Such a man did well and wor- 
thily ; his condutl is highly approvable. This 
fpeech, according to all rules of interpretation, 
expreffes my friend's judgment of the man's 
conduct. This judgment may be true or falfe, 
and I may agree in opinion with him, or I may 
dhTent from him without offence, as we may dif- 
fer in other matters of judgment. 

Suppofe, again, that, in relation to the fame 
cafe, my friend fays, The man's condutl gave me 
a very agreeable feeling. 

This fpeech, if approbation be nothing but an 
agreeable feeling, mull have the very fame 
meaning with the firft, and exprefs neither 
more nor lefs. But this cannot be, for two rea- 

Firjl, Becaufe there is no rule in grammar or 
rhetoric, nor any ufage in language, by which 
thefe two fpeeches can be conftrued, fo as to 
have the fame meaning. The firjl expreffes 
plainly an opinion or judgment of the conduct 
of the man, but fays nothing of the fpeaker. 
The fecond only teflifies a facT concerning the 
fpeaker, to wit, that he had iueh a feeling. 

Another reafon why thefe two fpeeches can- 
not mean the fame thing is, that the firft may 
be contradicted without any ground of offence, 


592 ESSAY V. [CHAP. J 

fuch contradiction being only a difference of 
opinion, which, to a reafonable man, gives no 
offence. But the fecond fpeech cannot be con- 
tradicted without an affront ; for, as every man 
muft know his own feelings, to deny that a man 
had a feeling which he affirms he had, is to 
charge him with falfehood. 

If moral approbation be a real judgment, 
which produces an agreeable feeling in the mind 
of him who judges, both fpeeches are perfectly 
intelligible, in the mofl obvious and literal fenfe. 
Their meaning is different, but they are related, 
fo that the one may be inferred from the other, 
as we infer the effect from the caufe^ or the 
caufe from the effect. I know, thafwhat a man 
judges to be a very worthy action, he contem- 
plates with pleafure ; and what he contemplates 
with pleafure muft, in his judgment, have worth. 
But the judgment and the feeling are different 
acts of his mind, though connected as caufe and 
effect. He can exprefs either the one or the 
other with perfect propriety ; but the fpeech 
which expreffes his feeling is altogether impro- 
per and inept -to exprefs his judgment, for this 
evident reafon, that judgment and feeling, 
though in fome cafes connected, are things in 
their nature different. 

If we fuppofe, on the other hand, that moral 
approbation is nothing more than an agreeable 
feeling, occafioned by the contemplation of an 
action, the fecond fpeech above mentioned has 



a diftin6t meaning, and exprefTes all that is 
meant by moral approbation. But the firft 
fpeech either means the very fame thing, (which 
cannot be, for the reafons already mentioned) or 
it has no meaning. 

Now, we may appeal to the Reader, whether,, 
in converfation upon human characters, fuch 
fpeeches as the fir ft are not as frequent, as fami- 
liar, and as well underftood, as any thing in lan- 
guage ; and whether they have not been com- 
mon in all ages that we can trace, and in all 
languages ? 

This doctrine, therefore, That moral appro- 
bation is merely a feeling without judgment, 
necefTarily carries along with it this confequence, 
that a form of fpeech,. upon one of the moll 
common topics of difcourie, which cither ha? 
no meaning, or a meaning irreconcilable to ail 
rules of grammar or rhetoric, is found to be 
common and familiar in all languages, and in all 
ages of the world, while every man knows how 
to exprefs the meaning, if it have any, in plain 
and proper language. 

Such a confequence I think fuScient to fink 
any philofophical opinion on which it hangs. 

A particular language may have fome oddiT- 
ty, or even abfurdity, introduced by fome man 
of eminence, from caprice or wrong judgment, 
and followed, by fervile imitators, for a time, 
till it be detected, and, of confequence, dif- 
countenanced and dropt ; but that the fame ab- 

Vol. III. P p furdity 

$$4 £ S S A Y V. [CHAP. 7. 

furdity fhould pervade all languages, through all 
ages, and that, after being detected and expo- 
fed, if fhould ftill keep its countenance and its 
place in language as much as before, this can ne- 
ver be while men have underftanding. 

It may be obferved by the way, that the fame 
argument may be applied, with equal force, 
againft thofe other paradoxical opinions of mo- 
dern philofophy, which we before mentioned as 
connected with this, fuch as, that beauty and 
deformity are not at all in the objects to which 
language univerfally afcribes them, but are mere- 
ly feelings in the mind of the fpectator ; that the 
fecondary qualities are not in external objects, 
but are merely feelings or fenfations in him that 
perceives them; and, in- general, that our exter- 
nal and internal fenfes are faculties by which we 
have fenfations or feelings only, but by which 
we do not judge. 

That every form of fpeech, which language 
affords to exprefs our judgments, fhould, in all 
ages, and in all languages, be ufed to exprefs 
what is no judgment ; and that feelings, which 
are eali'ly expreffed in proper language, fhould 
as univerfally be expreffed by language altoge- 
ther improper and abfurd, I cannot believe ; and 
therefore muft conclude, that if language be the 
exprefiion of thought, men judge of the primary 
and fecondary qualities of body by their exter- 
nal fenfes, of beauty and deformity by their 



tafte, and of virtue and vice by their moral fa- 

A truth fo evident as this is, can hardly be 
obfcured and brought into doubt, but by the 
abufe of words. And much abufe of words 
there has been upon this fubject. To avoid this, 
as much as poffible, I have ufed the word judg- 
ment, on one fide, and fenfation ox feeling, upon 
the other ; becaufe thefe words have been leaft 
liable to abufe or ambiguity. But it may be pro- 
per to make fome obfervations upon other words 
that have been ufed in this controverfy. 

Mr Hume, in bis Treatife of Human Nature, 
has employed two fections upon it, the titles of 
which are, Moral Diftinclions not derived from 
Reafon, and Moral Diflintlibns derived from a 
Moral Senfe. 

When he is not, by cuftom, led unawares to 
fpeak of reafon like other men, he limits that 
word to fignify only the power of judging in! 
matters merely fpeculative. Hence he con- 
cludes, il That reafon of itfelf is inactive and 
" perfectly inert." That " actions may be lau~ 
" dabie or bl'ameable, but cannot be reasonable 
" or unreafonable." That " it is not contrary 
" to reafon, to prefer the deftruction of the 
" whole world to the feratching of my finger." 
That " it is not contrary to reafon, for me to 
" choofe my total ruin to prevent the leaf! un- 
" eafmefs of an Indian, or of a perfon wholly 
" unknown to me." That " reafon is, and 
P p 2 " ought 

^6 £ 3 3 A Y V. [6 HAP. 7. 

" ought only to be, the Have of the pafiions, and 
u can never pretend to any other office, than to 
*? ferve and obey them." 

If we take the word reafon to mean what 
common ufe, both of Philofophers, and of the 
vulgar, hath made it to mean, thefe maxims are 
not only falfe, but licentious. It is only his 
abufe of the words reafon and paffion^ that can 
juftify them from this cenfure. 

The meaning of a common word is not to be 
afcertained by philosophical theory, but by 
common ufage ; and if a man will take the li- 
berty of limiting or extending the meaning of 
common words at his pleafure, he may, like 
Mandeville, inflnuate the mod licentious pa- 
radoxes with the appearance of plaufibility. I 
have before made fome observations upon the 
meaning of this word, EfTay II. chap. 1. and 
Eifay III. part 3. chap. 1. to which the Reader 
is referred. 

When Mr Hume derives moral diftinctions 
from a moral fenfe, I agree with him in words, 
but we differ about the meaning of the word 
fenfe. Every power to which the name of a 
fenfe has been given, is a power of judging of 
the objects of that fenfe, and has been account- 
ed fuch in all ages ; the moral fenfe therefore is 
the power of judging in morals. But Mr Hume 
will have the moral fenfe to be only a power of 
feeling, without judging : This I take to be an 
%bufe of a word. 



Authors who place moral approbation in feel- 
ing only, very often ufe the word fentiment, to 
exprefs feeling without judgment. This I take 
iikewife to he an abufe of a word. Our moral 
determinations may, with propriety, be called 
moral fentiment s. For the word fentiment, in the 
Englifh language, never, as I conceive, ilgnifies 
mere feeling, but judgment accompanied with 
feeling. It was wont to fignify opinion or judg- 
ment of any kind, but, of late, is appropriated 
to iignify an opinion or judgment, that ftrikes, 
and produces fome agreeable or uneafy emotion. 
So we fpeak of fcntiments of refpect, of efteem, 
of gratitude. But I never heard the pain of the 
gout, or any other mere feeling, called a fenti- 

Even the word judgment has been ufed by Mr 
Hume to exprefs what he maintains to be only 
a feeling. Treatife of Human Nature, part 3. 
page 3. " The term perception is no lefs appli- 
" cable to thofe judgments by which we diftin- 
" guifh moral good and evil, than to every other 
" operation of the mind." Perhaps he ufed 
this word inadvertently ; for I think there can- 
not be a greater abufe of words, than to put 
judgment for what he held to be mere feel- 

All the words moft commonly ufed, both by 

Philofophers and by the vulgar, to exprefs the 

operations of our moral faculty, fuch as decifon, 

determination, fentence, approbation, difapproba- 

V p 3 tiqn, 

§98 ESSAY v. [chap. 7. 

tion, applaufe, cenfure, praife, blame, necefTarily 
imply judgment in their meaning. When, there- 
fore, they are ufed by Mr Hume, and others who 
hold his opinion, to fignify feelings only, this is 
an abufe of words. If thefe Philofophers wifU 
to fpeak plainly and properly, they muft, in dif- 
courfmg of morals, difcard thefe words altoge- 
ther, becaufe their eftablifhed fignification in the' 
language, is contrary to what they would ex- 
prefs by them. 

They mull like wife difcard from morals the 
w T ords ought and ought not, which very properly 
exprefs judgment, but cannot be applied to 
mere feelings. "Ppon thefe words Mr Hume 
has made a particular obfervation in the conclu- 
lion of his firft fection above mentioned. I fhall 
give it in his own words, and make fome re- 
marks upon it. 

" I cannot forbear adding to thefe reafonings f 
" an obfervation which may, perhaps, be found 
'? of fome importance. In every fyftem of mo- 
" rality which I have hitherto met with, 1 have 
i( always remarked, that the Author proceeds 
" for fome time in the ordinary way of reafori - 
" ing, and eftabJifnes the being of a God, or 
"■ makes obfeyvations concerning human affairs \ 
" when, of a fudden, I am furprifed to find, that, 
i( inftead of the ufual copulations of propofi- 
" tions, is, and is not, I meet with no propoii- 
f* tion that is not connected with an ought, or 
M an ought not. This change is imperceptible, 

" but 


*' but is, however, of the laft confequence. For 
" as this ought or ought not expreffes fome new 
" relation or affirmation, 'tis neceffary that it 
" fhould be obferved and explained ; and, at 
" the fame time, that a reafon fhould be given 
" for what feems altogether inconceivable ; how 
" this new relation can be a deduction from 
" others which are entirely different from it. 
" But as Authors do not commonly uie this 
" precaution, I fhall prefume to recommend it 
" to the Readers ; and am perfuaded, that this 
" fmall attention would fubvert all the vulgar 
" fyftems of morality, and 1st us fee, that the 
" diftinction of vice and virtue, is not founded 
" merely on the relations of objects, nor is per- 
" ceived by reafon." 

We may here obferve, that it is acknowledg- 
ed, that the words ought and ought not expreis 
fome relation' or affirmation ; but a relation or 
affirmation which Mr Hume thought inexpli- 
cable, or, at lead, inconliftent with his fyftem 
of morals. He mult, therefore, have thought, 
that they ought not to be ufed in treating of that 

He likewife makes two demands, and, taking 
it for granted that they cannot be fatisfied, is 
perfuaded, that an attention to this is fufficient 
to fubvert all the vulgar fyftems of morals. 

The jirji demand is, that ought and ought not 
be explained. 

P p 4 To 

6eo e s s a y y. [chap. 7. 

To a man that underftands Englifh, there are 
furely no words that require explanation lefs. 
Are not all men taught, from their early years, 
that they ought not to lie, nor ileal, nor fwea'r 
falfely ? But Mr Hume thinks, that men never 
understood what thefe precepts mean, or rather 
that they are unintelligible, If this be fo, I 
think indeed it will follow, that all the vulgar 
fyftems of morals are fubverted. 

Dr Johnson, in his Dictionary, explains the 
word ought to fignify, being obliged by duty > 
and I know no better explication that can be 
given of it. The reader will fee what I thought 
neceffary to fay concerning the moral relation 
expreffed by this word, in Effay III. part 3. 
chap. 5. 

The fecond demand is. That a reafon fhould 
be given why this relation fhould be a deduc- 
tion from others which are entirely different 
from it. 

This is to demand a reafon for what does not 
exift. The fir it principles of morals are not de- 
ductions. They are felf-evident ; and their 
truth, like that of other axioms, is perceived 
without reafoning or deduction. And moral 
truths, that are not felf-evident, are deduced, 
not from relations quite different from them, but 
from the firil principles of morals. 

In a matter fo Interesting to mankind, and fo 
frequently the fubject of converfation among the 
learned and the unlearned as morals is, it may 



furely be expected, that men will exprefs both 
their judgments and their feelings with proprie- 
ty, and confiftently with the rules of language. 
An opinion, therefore, which makes the lan- 
guage of all ages and nations, upon this fubjecl:, 
to be improper, contrary to all rules of language, 
and fit to be difcarded, needs no other refuta- 

As mankind have, in all ages, underftood rea- 
fon to mean the power by which not only our 
fpeculative opinions, but our actions ought to be 
regulated, we may fay, with perfect propriety, 
that all vice is contrary to reaibn ; that, by rea- 
fon, we are to judge of what we ought to do, as 
well as of what we ought to believe. 

But though all vice be contrary to reafon, I 
conceive that it would not be a proper definition 
of vice to fay, that it is a conduct contrary to 
reafon, becaufe this definition wouid apply 
equally to folly, which all men diftinguifh from 

There are other phrafes which have been ufed 
on the fame iide of the queftion, which I fee no 
reafon for adopting, fuch as, acting contrary to 
the relations of things, contrary to the reafon of 
things, to the filnsfs of things, to the truth of things, 
to abfolute fitnefs. Thefe phrafes have not the 
authority of common ufe, which, in matters of 
language, is great. They feem to have been in- 
vented by fome authors, with a view to explain 
the nature of vice ; but I do not think they an- 


fc02 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 7. 

fwer that end. If intended as definitions of vice, 
they are improper ; becaufe, in the mod favour- 
able fenfe they can bear, they extend to every 
kind of foolifti and abfurd conduct, as well as to 
that which is vicious. 

I mall conclude this chapter with fome obfer- 
vations upon the five arguments which Mr Hume 
has offered upon this point in his Enquiry. 

The Jirjl is, That it is impoffible that the hy- 
pothecs he oppofes can, in any particular in- 
stance, be fo much as rendered intelligible, what- 
ever fpecious figure it may make in general dif- 
courfe. " Examine," fays he, " the crime of 
*' ingratitude, anatomize all its circumftances, 
" and examine, by your reafon alone, in what 
" confifts the demerit or blame, you will never 
" come to any ifiue or conclufion. ,, 

I think it unneceffary to follow him through 
all the accounts of ingratitude which he con- 
ceives may be given by thofe whom he oppofes, 
becaufe I agree with him in that which he him~ 
ielf adopts, to wit, " That this crime arifes from 
l '- a complication of circumftances, which, being 
" prefented to the fpeclator, excites the fenti- 
iC ment of blame by the particular ilruclure and 
" fabric of his mind." 

This he thought a true and intelligible ac- 
count of the criminality of ingratitude. So do I. 
And therefore I think the hypothefis he oppofes 
is intelligible, when applied to a particular in- 



Mr Hume, no doubt, thought, that the ac- 
count he gives of ingratitude is inconMent with 
the hypothec's he .oppofes, and could not be 
adopted by thofe who hold that hypotheiis. 
He could be led to think lb, only by taking for 
granted one of thefe two things. Either, firjl* 
That the fentiment of blame means a feeling on- 
ly, without judgment \ or fecondly, That what- 
ever is excited by the particular fabric and ftruc- 
ture of the mind muft be feeling only, and not 
judgment. But I cannot grant either the one 
or the other. 

For, as to tlicfirft, it feems evident to me, that 
ho\X\ fentiment and blame imply judgment ; and, 
therefore, that the fentiment of blame means a 
judgment accompanied with feeling, and not 
mere feeling without judgment. 

The fecond can as little be granted ; for no 
operation of mind, whether judgment or feeling, 
can be excited but by that particular ftructure 
and fabric of the mind which makes us capable 
of that operation. 

By that part of our fabric which we call the 
faculty of feeing, we judge of vifible objects ; by 
tajle, another part of our fabric, we judge of 
beauty and deformity ; by that part of our fa- 
bric, which enables us to form ab (tract concep- 
tions, to compare them, and perceive their rela- 
tions, we judge of abftract truths ; and by that 
part of our fabric which we call the moral fa- 
culty, we judge of virtue and vice. If we fup- 


604 essay v. [chap. 7, 

pofe a being without any moral faculty in his 
fabric, I grant that he could not have the fenti- 
ments of blame and moral approbation. 

There are, therefore, judgments, as well as 
feelings, that are excited by the particular flruc- 
ture and fabric of the mind. But there is this 
remarkable difference between them, That every 
judgment is, in its own nature, true or falfe ; 
and though it depends upon the fabric of a mind, 
whether it have fuch a judgment or not, it de- 
pends not upon that fabric whether the judg- 
ment be true or not. A true judgment will be 
true, whatever be the fabric of the mind ; but a 
particular uruclure and fabric is neceffary, in 
order to our perceiving that truth. Nothing 
like this can be faid of mere feelings, becaufe 
the attributes of true or falfe do not belong to 

Thus I think it appears, that 'the hypothefis 
which Mr Hume oppofes is not unintelligible, 
when applied to the particular inftance of in- 
gratitude ; becaufe the account of ingratitude 
which he himfeif thinks true and intelligible, is 
perfectly agreeable to it. 

The fecond argument amounts to this : That 
in moral deliberation, we muft be acquainted 
before-hand with all the objects and all their 
relations. After thefe things are known, the un- 
derftanding has no farther room to operate. No- 
thing remains but to feel, on our part, fome fen- 
timent of blame or approbation. 



Let us apply this reafoning to the office of a 
judge. In a caufe that comes before him, he 
mull be made acquainted with all the objects, 
and all their relations. After this, his under- 
itanding has no farther room to operate. No- 
thing remains, on his part, but to feel the right 
or the wrong ; and mankind have, very abfurd- 
ly, called him a judge j he ought to be called a 

To anfwer this argument more directly : The 
man who deliberates, after all the objects and 
relations mentioned by Mr Hume are known to 
him, has a point to determine • and that is, whe- 
ther the action under his deliberation ought to 
be done or ought not. In moil cafes, this point 
will appear feif-evidenr. to a man who has been 
accuftomed to exercife his moral judgment \ in 
fome cafes it may require reafoning. 

In like manner, the judge, after all the cir- 
cumftanccs of the caufe are known, has to judge, 
whether the plaintiff has a juil plea or not. 

The third argument is taken from the analogy 
between moral beauty and natural, between mo- 
ral fentiment and tafte. As beauty is not a qua- 
lity of the object, but a certain feeling of the 
fpectator, fo virtue and vice are not qualities in 
the perfons to whom language afcribes them, 
but feelings of the fpectator. 

But is it certain that beauty is not any quali- 
ty of the object ? This is indeed a paradox of' 
modern philofophy, built upon a philofophical 

theory • 

&j6 essay v. [chap. 7„ 

theory ; but a paradox lb contrary to the com- 
mon language and common fenfe of mankind, 
that it ought rather to overturn the theory on 
which it Hands, than receive any fupport from 
it. And if beauty be really a quality of the ob- 
ject, and not merely a feeling of the fpedtator ? 
the whole force of this argument goes over to 
the other fide of the queftion. 

" Euclid," he fays, " has fully explained all 
u the qualities of the circle, but has not, in any 
" proportion, find a word of its beauty. Thd 
" reafon is evident. The beauty is not a qua- 
" lity of the circle." 

By the qualities of the circle, he muft mean its 
properties ; and there are here two miftakes. 

Firft, Euclid has not fully explained all the 
properties of the circle. Many have been 
difcovered and demonftrated which he never 
dreamt of. 

Secondly, The reafon why Euclid has not faid 
a word of the beauty of the circle, is not, that 
beauty is not a quality of the circle ; the reafon is, 
that Euclid never digrefles from his fubjecl. 
His purpofe was to demonftrate the mathemati- 
cal properties of the circle. Beauty is a quali- 
ty of the circle, not demonftrable by mathemati- 
cal reaibning, but immediately perceived by a 
good tafte. To fpeak of it would have been a 
digreffion from his fubjecl ; and that is a fault 

he is never guilty of. 



The fourth argument is, That inanimate ob- 
jects may bear to each other all the fame rela- 
tions which we obferve in moral agents. 

If this were true, it would be very much to 
the purpofe ; but it feems to be thrown out rafh- 
ly, without any attention to its evidence. Had 
Mr Hume reftecled but a very little upon this 
dogmatical affertion, a thoufand inftances would 
have occurred to him in direct contradiction to 

May not one animal be more tame, or more 
docile, or more cunning, or more fierce, or more 
ravenous, than another ? Are thefe relations to 
be found in inanimate objects ? May not one 
man be a better painter, or fculptor, or fhip- 
builder, or tailor, or fhoemaker, than another ? 
Are thefe relations to be found in inanimate ob- 
jects, or even in brute-animals ? May not one 
moral agent be more juft, more pious, more at- 
tentive to any moral duty, or more eminent in 
any moral virtue, than another ? Are not thefe 
relations peculiar to moral agents ? But to come 
to the relations raoft effential to morality. 

When I fay that I ought to do fitch an aclion, 
that it is my duty, do not thefe words exprefs a 
relation between me and a certain action in my 
power ; a relation which cannot be between in- 
animate objects, or between any other objects 
but a moral' agent and his moral actions ; a re- 
lation which is well under ft ood by all men come 


6o8 ESSAY v. [chap. 7, 

to years of understanding, and exprerTed in all 
languages ? 

Again, when in deliberating about two actions 
in my power, which cannot both be done, I fay 
this ought to be preferred to the other ; that 
jufiice, for inflance, ought to be preferred to ge- 
nerosity ; I exprefs a moral relation between 
two actions of a moral agent, which is well un- 
derftood, and which cannot ex ill between ob- 
jects of any other kind. 

There are, therefore, moral relations which 
can have no existence but between moral agents 
and their voluntary actions. To determine 
thefe relations is the object of morals ; and to 
determine relations, is the province of judgment, 
and not of mere feeling. 

The lajl argument is a chain of feveral propo- 
rtions, which deferve diftinct confideration. 
They may, I think, be fummed up in thefe four ; 

1. There muft be ultimate ends of action, beyond 
which it is abfurd to afk a reafon c£ acting. 

2. The ultimate ends of human actions can never 
be accounted for by reafon ; 3. but recommend 
themfelves entirely to the fentiments and affec- 
tions of mankind, without any dependence on 
the intellectual faculties. 4. As virtue is an end, 
and is defirable on its own account, without fee 
or reward, merely for the immediate fatisfaction 
it conveys ; it is requifite, that there mould be 
fome fentiment which it touches, fome internal 
tafle or feeling, or whatever you pleafe to call 



it, which diftinguifhes moral good and evil, and 
which embraces the one and rejects the other. 

To the firjl of thefe proportions I entirely 
agree. The ultimate ends of action are what I 
have called the principles of ac~lion, which I have 
endeavoured, in the third EiTay, to enumerate,' 
and to clafs under three heads of mechanical, 
animal and rational. ;-■■ 

The fecond proportion needs feme explica- 
tion. I take its meaning to be, That there can- 
not be another end for the fake of which an ul- 
timate end is purfued : For the reafon of an 
action means nothing but the end for which the 
action is done ; and the reafon of an end of 
action can mean nothing but another end, for 
the fake of which that end is purfued, and to 
which it is the means. 

That this is the author's meaning is evident 
from his reafoning in confirmation of it. " A(k 
" a man, why he ufes exercifef he will anfwer, 
" becaufe he defires to keep his health. If you 
" then inquire, why he dejires health ? he will 
" readily reply, becaufe Jlcknefs is painful. If 
" you pufh your inquiries further, and defire a 
" reafon why he hates pain, it is impoffible he 
" can ever give any. This is an ultimate end, 
■" and is never referred to any other object." 
To account by reafon for an end, therefore, is 
to fhow another end, for the fake of which that 
end is defired and purfued. And that, in this 
fenfe, an ultimate end can never be accounted 

Vol. III. Q^q for 

6lO ESSAY V. [CHAP. 7. 

for by reafon, is certain, becaufe that cannot be 
an ultimate end which is purfued only for the 
fake of another end. 

I agree therefore with Mr Hume in this fe- 
cond proposition, which indeed is implied in the 

The third propofition is, That ultimate ends 
recommend themfelves entirely to the fentiments 
and affections of mankind, without any depend- 
ence on the intellectual faculties. 

By fentiments he muft here mean feelings 
without judgment, and by affeBions, fuch affec- 
tions as imply no judgment. For furely any 
operation that implies judgment, cannot be in- 
dependent of the intellectual faculties. 

This being underftood, I cannot aflent to this 

The Author feems to think it implied in the 
preceding, or a neceffary confequence from it, 
that becaufe an ultimate end cannot be account- 
ed for by reafon ; that is, cannot be purfued 
merely for the fake of another end ; therefore 
it can have no dependence on the intellectual 
faculties. I deny this confequence, and can fee 
no force in it. 

I think it not only does not follow from the 
preceding propofition, but that it is contrary to 

A man may act from gratitude as an ultimate 
end ; but gratitude implids a judgment and be- 
lief of favours received, and therefore is depend- 


ent on the intellectual faculties. A man may 
act from refpect to a worthy character as an ul- 
timate end ; but this refpect neceffarily implies 
a judgment of worth in the perfon, and there- 
fore is dependent on the intellectual faculties. 

I have endeavoured in the third Effay before 
mentioned, to Ihew that, befide the animal prin- 
ciples of our nature, which require will and in- 
tention, but not judgment, there are alfo in hu- 
man nature rational principles of action, or ulti- 
mate ends, which have, in all ages, been called 
rational, and have a juft title to that name, not 
only from the authority of language, butbecaufe 
they can have no exigence but in beings endow- 
ed with reafon, and becaufe, in all their exer- 
tions, they require not only intention and will, 
but judgment or reafon. 

Therefore, until it can be proved that an ulti- 
mate end cannot be dependent on the intellectual 
faculties, this third propofition, and all that 
hangs upon it, mull fall to the ground. 

The lajl propofition affumes, with very good 
reafon, That virtue is an ultimate end, and de- 
firable on its own account. From which, if the 
third propofition were true, the conclufion would 
undoubtedly follow, That virtue has no depend- 
ence on the intellectual faculties. But as that 
propofition is not granted, nor proved, this con- 
clulion is left without any fuppcrt from the 
whole of the argument. 


6l2 ESSAY V. [CHAP. 7. 

I fhould not have thought it worth while to 
irriift fo long upon this controverfy, if I did not 
conceive that the confequences which the con- 
trary opinions draw after them are important. 

If what we call moral judgment be no real 
judgment, but merely a feeling, it follows, that 
the principles of morals which we have been 
taught to confider as an immutable law to all 
intelligent beings, have no other foundation but 
an arbitrary ftrudture and fabric in the conftitu- 
tion of the human mind : So that, by a change 
In our ftruclure, what is immoral might become 
moral, virtue might be turned into vice, and 
vice into virtue. And beings of a different 
itrudture, according to the variety of their feel- 
ings, may have different, nay oppofite meafures 
of moral good and evil. 

It follows that, from our notions of morals, 
we can conclude nothing concerning a moral 
character in the Deity, which is the foundation 
of all religion, and the flrongeft fupport of vir- 

Kay, this opinion feems to conclude ftrongly 
againft a moral character in the Deity, fince 
nothing arbitrary or mutable can be conceived 
to enter into the defcription of a nature eternal, 
immutable, and neceffarily exiflent. Mr Hume 
feems perfectly confident with himfelf, in allow- 
ing of no evidence for the moral attributes of 
the Supreme Being, whatever there may be for 
"his natural attributes. 



On the other hand, if moral judgment be a 
true and real judgment, the principles of morals 
Hand upon the immutable foundation of truth, 
and can undergo no change by any difference 
of fabric, or ftructure of thofe who judge of them. 
There may be, and there are, beings, who have 
not the faculty of conceiving moral truths, or 
perceiving the excellence of moral worth, as 
there are beings incapable of perceiving mathe- 
matical truths ; but no defect, no error of under- 
Handing, can make what is true to be falfe. 

If it be true that piety, juftice, benevolence, 
wifdom, temperance, fortitude, are in their own 
nature the mofl excellent and moil amiable qua- 
lities of a human creature ; that vice has an in- 
herent turpitude which merits difapprobation 
and diilike ; thefe truths cannot be hid from 
Him whofe underftanding is infinite, whofe judg- 
ment is always according to truth, and who 
mull efleem every thing according to its real 

The Judge of all the earth, we are fure, will 
do right. He has given to men the faculty of 
perceiving the right and the wrong in conduct, 
as far as is neceffary to our preient flate, and of 
perceiving the dignity of the one, and the de- 
merit of the other; and furely there can be no 
real knowledge or real excellence in man, which 
is not in his Maker. 

We may therefore juftly conclude, That what 
we know in part, and fee in part, of right and 




[chap. 7, 

wrong, He fees perfectly ; that the moral excel- 
lence which we fee and admire in fome of our 
fellow creatures, is a faint but true copy of that 
moral excellence, which is eflential to His na- 
ture ; and that to tread the path of virtue, is 
the true dignity of our nature, an imitation of 
God, and the way to obtain his favour. 

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